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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It’s Not Going to be Easy, It’s Going to be Worth It.

Truth-for-Teachers-LogoThese are the final words that Angela Watson, of the Truth for Teachers podcast, leaves her listeners with each week. A former teacher and now educational consultant, Watson has become widely known for her management ideas for teachers, and especially for her (totally amazing sounding) 40 Hour Work Week Club. Her podcast is fantastic, and that’s why I thought I would share it with you today.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good inspirational podcast as much as the next person, but I do find that many of them are just that – inspirational, and not that practical. Sometimes when you’re looking for advice, or need a kick up the backside to even get in the car to go to work on a Monday morning, you need concrete suggestions on how to make the work week a little easier. Truth for Teachers is just that.

I’ve had episodes that have given me 9 Classroom Organisational Tips for the New Year, and even 5 Ways to Turn a Worksheet into a Collaborative Critical Thinking Activity. If these titles don’t get your teacher-nerd juices flowing, then I’m sorry to say, nothing will! It just happens to be incredibly handy that she posts a new episode each Monday morning, at peak “New week new me” time.

I encourage you all to go and have a listen, and maybe even a trawl through the archives to see if there’s anything that can help your particular situation.

We all know that teaching isn’t easy, but it’s podcasts like Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers that remind us that it’s absolutely worth it.

 

 

*This is an independent post and in no way affiliated with Truth for Teachers. I just love the darn podcast

 


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Monday Provocation #9 – Hey Girl

JT Success Criteria - The Creative Teacher Project

Okay, okay, I guess this isn’t technically a provocation for you to do your best teaching work, but it’s a laugh, and considering we’re all back to work (those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, at least!), I’m sure we could all do with a laugh and a couple of moments of staring into JT’s eyes.

You’re welcome.

 

Image credit.


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Te@cher Toolkit, by Ross Morrison McGill: First Thoughts

Teacher Toolkit - The Creative Teacher Project

Image credit to teacheretoolkit.me

I’ve worked out that at about week 3 of each term this year, I tend to have a little ‘I can’t do this, I’ve made a terrible decision’ freakout. I’m told it’s quite common. By week 4, I’m slowly recovering, and by week 5 I am feeling pretty amazing about this job of mine once again. With this being a 6 week term, the freakout forecast predicts a possible meltdown in week 2…..not good!

One of the things that gets me feeling good again in week 4, is going on a little Amazon binge (although I do try not to shop on Amazon for various reasons). I tend to find some good resources, and occasionally a little teacher help book. It was a few weeks ago now that I realised one of the teachers I follow on Twitter had written the above book.

I’m not going to lie – this baby was in my shopping basket the moment I read the strapline “Helping you survive your first five years”. This looks like the book I never knew I always needed.

Written by Ross Morrison McGill (the most followed teacher on Twitter), it seems to be a collection of general advice, mixed in with practical tips and suggestions of things that have worked for him. I find that I really enjoy his writing style, and his voice comes through strongly.

I’ve already got some ideas brewing about what strategies I might implement this term, and I’m sure they will become even clearer by the time I finish reading the whole book. I plan to report back once it’s finished, but so far – so good!

~

On another note – thanks for the great year guys, hope you see 2016 in with style!

Here’s to bigger and better teaching and learning in the New Year.


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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!