The Creative Teacher Project

An NQT Bringing Creativity to the Classroom


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Summer 2016

Creative Teacher Project on Holiday

The six week break in the middle of the year is a pretty sweet perk of being a teacher. I’ve just spent two weeks in Portugal, several days of which were sitting in the very deckchairs you see pictured here. It was awesome.

It is to the chagrin of many of my fellow teachers that we are constantly teased by non-teaching friends about how easy we have it, and how many holidays we get. To them I say – we just happened to do 12 months of work in 10 months!

Plus, even though I might not be teaching, it’s not as if I haven’t been working. As I’m currently child-free and my husband works full time, and all of my friends are still at work, I found myself twiddling my thumbs on more than one occasion, until I felt the pull of work too strong to resist….

I want this coming year to be an improvement on my last. Every teacher I’ve spoken to assures me that I will never forget my first class, and of that I am certain – I was luckier than most in my very first class, they were truly delightful. But as a new teacher I made many mistakes, and I want to be a better version of myself this year for my new class.

So I am going against my nature and getting organised. I am a typical Virgo (even though I don’t believe in this stuff) but I thrive in an organised environment, and find mess stressful to be around. I have also classic Libra tendencies, and am attracted to balance…..a balance of stacks of paper teetering on the edge of my desk.

To tell you the truth I have been spending a lot of time this summer working on the systems I need to be seamlessly organised and efficient this year. I have told everyone within earshot that I am ‘turning over a new leaf’ in the hopes that the potential shame of not doing so will keep me on the straight and narrow.

I’ve seen many memes over the break about how teachers dread the return of the school year. While I can’t admit that I’m looking forward to the long hours again, I can’t deny that my overriding feelings towards the new school year are ones of excitement!

New year, new me!

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The Creative Teacher Book Club :: Tudors :: Under the Rose by Alan Childs

My cUnder the Rose - The Creative Teacher Projectlass has studied the Tudors for terms 5 and 6 this year, and the text we have used is Under the Rose: A Tudor Spy Story by Alan Childs. This is a descriptive account of the adventures of Crispin, a young baker’s apprentice who gets swept up in an Elizabethan murder plot.

First things first, this is a book from what I believe to be quite a small publishing house. Alan Childs appears to have written a few novels, linking to the old curriculum, as well as many non-fiction historical texts. It’s a little bit old-school, in terms of the setting out of the book, but is accompanied by some excellent illustrations.

The illustrations proved rich fodder for GPAS work, giving my students opportunities to create expanded noun phrases to describe what they saw.

As it is a spy story, the plot is filled with suspense, which I also found useful in developing the class’s prediction skills – they were desperate to know what happened next and had so many ideas!

I found that it was also incredibly useful for vocabulary work. There are many Tudor terms used in the book, and we had a couple of great sessions finding out what they meant, for example a scrivener, doublet and livery. This allowed us to come up with a working wall filled with words to include in our writing, and the class had a sense of ownership, as they’d discovered the meaning themselves, and had immediately seen in used in the context of the story.

My Google detective work has suggested that there may be a teacher’s pack to accompany this book, which I would love to find, however it appears to have been published in the 90s, so my searching so far has proved fruitless. If anyone out there can point me in the direction of it – I would be heartily grateful!

 


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The Creative Teacher Book Club :: Ancient Romans :: Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks

Tiger Tiger - Creative Teacher Project

Today’s post comes to you from my sickbed – it seems my body doesn’t even have the decency to wait until I am on holiday before getting ill, and I have a suspected case of tonsillitis. Must be all that talking I do!

We have a creative curriculum at my school, meaning that we use our topic of study across as much of the curriculum as we can. It can, however, be tricky to find a suitable book – one that is both challenging for good readers but accessible for those who are still developing. They also need to be well written, ideally with some of the SPAG/GPAS features that we are learning.

I have actually found it quite difficult to find suitable texts, and so I thought I would create a little blog series addressing this, and recommending texts I have used and found helpful in the past.

A common Year 4 topic is the Romans, and I absolutely loved the text we studied this year-  Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks. This book is set in Ancient Rome, and although as a class we were looking at the Romans from a British History standpoint, the text was still suitable, as it often referred to Roman ways of life, for example slavery.

Taken from the blurb:

Two tiger cubs are snatched from their native jungle and shipped to Rome. On arrival at this strange land crowded with noisy “two-legs” they are cruelly separated. One cub becomes the princess’s pampered and adored house pet. The other, fiercer, cub is trained to become the star performer in Caesar’s bloodthirsty circus.

Reid Banks, perhaps more famously known for her work The Indian in the Cupboard, has paced the story well, keeping the language interesting and very descriptive.

I used this as inspiration for some non-fiction writing, in fact, and we spent part of a term looking at non-chronological reports. We all studied tigers, and gathered facts about their appearance, habitat, diet and other interesting facts. My class were really engaged, and some even borrowed the book to reread at home! The mark of a winner, no?

I think this book could also be a good basis for some descriptive writing, the settings are well described, and there are some interesting viewpoints. Princess Aurelia, the Caesar’s daughter, is horrified by the thought of the ‘circus’ at the Colosseum, and so some fruitful diary entries could easily be extracted from the text. I would also suggest some balanced arguments, from perhaps the point of view of the slaves and their masters.

As the front quote by Michael Morpugo states: “Tiger, Tiger burns brightly to the very last page, and long afterwards too”.

 

**Please note this is not a paid or sponsored post in anyway, nor are there any affiliate links. I just like the book!


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Long Time No Blog

  
If there’s one thing I’m sure my fellow teachers will sympathise with, it’s not having enough time during the year to do things you wanted to. So I won’t apologize too much about letting this here blog lie fallow for so long. But I will apologize a bit. Sorry!

Im going to focus instead on the things I’m learning in this new career of mine that is Primary School Teaching. It’s a hoot, but I have genuinely never worked so hard in my life. Woof. It’s hard, relentless but luckily not a thankless job.

I’m learning heaps and so I thought It will be valuable to share some of those things with you. Here’s 5 Things I’m Learning About Being an NQT:

  • Year 4s have an endless supply of questions up their sleeves. You either need to have the same amount of answers up yours, or know when enough is a enough, question-wise.
  • Parents are more scared of you than you are of them. You do need to screw your courage every time you need to approach a parent with some feedback, but as long as you do it with some understanding of what they’re dealing with, more often than not the response is positive. Or at least doesn’t end in tears (yours).
  • You won’t get everything done all of the time. In fact you might not get enough done most of the time. As I type this (on my phone, waiting for the bus at 18:45 on a Monday night), my reading corner remains possibly the most boring  in the world, let alone the school. But it will have to wait because I need to prioritize other things right now, and I cannot work 24 hours a day.
  • Technology is the bees knees. I recently made a short film of a recent school trip to a museum. It took me an hour in iMovie, but my kids went beserk for it and I have a record of the day to share with parents. Win.
  • Sometimes you need to level up. In a recent incident at school, a lovely girl in my class has gotten into the habit of being untruthful. I had tried to deal with it several times in class without the desired effect, and in the end, I had to get my deputy head to give the student a talking to. Sometimes it’s ok to admit you can’t solve everything on your own.

I hope my experience resonates with some of you – please do get in touch and let me know some of the things you learnt as an NQT!


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Mind Blown: Assessments and Embarrassment

I’m having a bit of a moment.  A revelatory one.

You see, I’m writing a paper on formative assessment, its impact on students and the implications for teachers. I’m loving it – this type of development focussed assessing is right up my alley and I cannot wait to get stuck in with my own (future) class. It’s all about high quality feedback, specifically addressing misconceptions but also giving more abstract indications to students about the direction they need to go in to really succeed. Formative assessment happens throughout a course of study, not just a test right at the end, you know, when it’s kind of too late to correct students if their wrong.

But this is where a lightbulb went DING DING DING in my brain. Testing and assessing is not a trick we play on students. We’re not supposed to be tripping them up, trying to ask questions that they don’t know the answer to to prove their not smart enough. Tests aren’t supposed to be too difficult for students. We’re supposed to assess students to find out how much they’ve learned. If they’re failing tests it’s because their not learning. That’s our responsibility!

There’s also no inherent value judgement in assessments. Woah Nelly, did I just say that? You don’t have to be embarrassed if you don’t know something! If only I had realised this in school – I could have asked so many more questions! I wish I had known this at Uni the first time around! Think about how much we could learn if we weren’t afraid of looking stupid by asking questions.

As teachers, we want our students to succeed. We want them to learn and build their own knowledge. Doing well in an essay is not the goal here (mind blown AGAIN). The essay is just the vehicle through which we can see what our students have learned. We need to structure our assessments so that our students can do well but more importantly, we need to use the information from our students assessments to really think about how and what we’re teaching them.

I think I need a little lie down now. My poor brain.

Hit me up in the comments if you’ve ever had a moment like this!