Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Active Reading Strategies - Visual Notes and Character Bodies

We teachers can sometimes forget that just because we are excited about the new challenging but engaging book that we are about to share with the class does not mean all pupils will immediately feel the same way. For some pupils the new class reader will evoke excitement and curiosity, for others it will bring them out in a cold sweat and a feeling of dread will creep through their veins. It is our duty to make any class reader accessible and enjoyable for all our pupils regardless of their ability and reading habits outside of the class. I have tried many things over the year to ensure I engage all pupils with all texts I have taught and now try and mix them all up whenever I read a book with a class. I have found that one of the key things that will help pupils engage with the events and characters fully is active reading strategies. Below are four of the fun ways I keep reading active and engage my pupils when we read together.

As always ground rules, your enthusiasm and clear and full explanations are necessary for these activities to work well. I usually get all pupils in the class to read a page with me taking a few pages after every 3 pupils have read when we have extended reading in class to allow pupils to be involved while still moving the text on with my slightly faster reading.

Visual Notes:
All pupils should have a copy of the book each, and an A4 piece of paper and colour pencils. While you, one pupil or a recording of the novel is being read aloud to the class pupils are asked to draw whatever comes into their mind as they listen. You can change the focus of the images if you choose to do so with a class if you wish. You could ask them to draw images of only literal words that are read aloud that stay in their mind, they feel are important or are repeated. For a higher ability group you could ask them to draw literal words read aloud as well as connotations or implied meanings that are brought about. I often model this for the first two pages being read so the pupils get the idea, while also having an opportunity to laugh at my drawings. It is important to emphasise that it is not about their drawing ability so stick figures are fine etc... I will pause the drawing frequently through the lesson and get a random pupil or two to stand up and show the class their images and talk through why they drew them prompting them to delve deeply into their selections. If your pupils find it difficult to share the reasons with the class you could get them to study buddy up and talk for a minute to one another about what they have drawn to get ideas flowing and build confidence. Once again this has the pupils learning and developing without even realising they are doing so. I have not found a class that does not enjoy this.

Character Bodies:
All pupils should have a copy of the book each, and A4 (or larger if working as a pair or group) piece of paper and colour pencils. This works well with pupils working in a pair or group but can be done individually on smaller paper or in books. I use this with all my students 11 years old to 19 years old and it works really well with all, just up the challenge or change the focus for different age groups and abilities. I usually get the pupils into groups with some large paper in the centre of the table and all pupils holding pens or pencils. I then get the students to write the name or the character I wish their group to focus, different one for each group, on top of the paper and draw a large outline of a body on the page with space to write inside and outside the shape. Then as the novel is being read aloud the groups are asked to write in and around the body shape. They should write any factual information they learn about the character around the outside of the body shape such as events and relationships. They should write any emotions, feelings and internal thoughts they learn about inside the body. We pause a few times during the reading and the groups feed back what they have found and we discuss as a class to develop ideas. We keep these Character Bodies and take them out a number of times to update them. There are many ways you can vary this activity to shape it for your class or topic. Great activity to get students to build up a really detailed understanding of the characters they meet in the text.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Having Fun with Learning - Teaching Writing Through Games

So, this is a lesson I have already done with an amazing Year Seven class. We were in the middle of a project based writing SOW based around spies that was inspired by and Hertfordshire Grid SOW. The pupils were in groups and in the middle of creating their own spy manual and all extremely excited - bless them right? One of my Year Seven pupils did ask me privately if they actually would be a spy at the end of the unit - oh to be eleven again.  Their writing needed a boost before they started to pull together the final product so I thought I'd mix it up and havesome fun with improving the skills they needed for the types of writing theywould be using in the spy manuals. I wanted to make them see that the skillsthey need in their writing are being used all the time in everything they do, not just when they write.

The key to this lesson working is you staying in role and having fun with it, clear instructions and resources organised and set out ready in advance so you can focus on the lesson progression.

Starter – I asked them to discuss in groups what skills they needed for describing, instructing and informing.  I used the fruitmachine name selector to choose which groups fed back ideas to the class. They came up with some great ideas.  We discussed the fact that they knew what they should be doing but were not always getting it into their writing.  We decided as a class that they need to practise the skills more in a fun way - so they became more confident with them.

Introduction - I put on some classic James Bond music and scuttled into a dark corner of the room to dress up as a spy, as you do.  I adopted my new role as super spy Agent Findlater.  The music faded away and I introduced myself to the class and was greeted by a sea of gasps, wide eyes and giggles (all good fun.) On the interactive whiteboard an ipad flashed up with a message from MI5 headquarters with their mission. “Trainee spies, in order to help you create a top notch spy handbook we think you need some field training.  You will be asked to take part in a number ofactivities in today’s training camp.  Allthese activities will help you get on-the-job experience.  Good luck budding spies. Agent Findlater.”

Development – I then split the time for the main section of the lesson into three equal parts, one for each game we would play for the three different writing styles.  Taboo for describing, blindfolded jigsaw for instructing and Information Relay for informing.  Taboo involved one member of the group describing a word from a card that only they could see without saying the word.  The group had to guess as many words as they could from the description. I played the classic bond music while they played the game and wondered around enjoying the buzz as they played. This worked well and they had lots of fun.  We paused and fed back at the end of each game, linking it back to how it could help with our descriptive writing. Blindfolded jigsaw was actually inspired by a training session I had while on the teaching leaders course last year, thanks TL.  This requires some prep but it is worth it.  A simple cardboard jigsaw is placed in the centre of each table for the group to see, all of the group bar one are then blindfolded and the jigsaw is mixed up.  The jigsaw in its made up format is displayed on the board for the non-blindfolded member of the groups to see.  All blindfolded members of the group must remain completely silent and only do as the non-blindfolded group member instructs.  The idea is to get the jigsawback to its original state, much harder than it seems and very funny towatch!  We then paused and talked aboutwhat worked well and how we could apply that to their instructional writing.  Information Relay was a simple game, one member of the group was given a full colour image, I chose a clip art detailed picture of a crime scene because it went with our topic, that only they were allowed to look at.  The picture holder was not allowed to correct them and only allowed to give factual information tothe team.  The rest of the group had towork together to draw the picture from factual information relayed to them from the picture holder.  Then they placed the original and team created picture together to see the result.  Some of the pictures that came out were hilarious!  Again we paused and linked this activity to their informative writing and how they could apply this.

Plenary – I ended the lesson with another message from MI5 HQ from the ipad template on the interactive whiteboard.  “Trainee spies, You have done the company proud today.  We trust that you will treat these tasks andthe things you have seen as completely confidential. You can however share the information with the people in this room. Tell your study buddy what you have learnt today and how you will apply it to your handbook.  You are one step closer to becoming fully fledged spies. Agent Findlater." 

It was a brilliant lesson and one of those moments when you really appreciate why you got into this crazy profession. They were inspired, enthused and felt empowered after that lesson.  I felt privileged to have been a part of that experience.

Over and out.

Ms F

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Ms Findlater's Teaching Blog - Intro

Morning everyone!

Ok so today is the first day of Ms Findlater's Teaching Blog, the official opening. I am a London based Secondary English Teacher and have been for many years. I love my job and am looking forward to getting a bit more high-tech and opening a new web-based area of the profession to myself. I will be posting teaching and lesson ideas on here that I have used or am planning to use and really welcome feedback and ideas from all my fellow professionals out there.

I’ll post up my first lesson idea later today.

Over and out

Ms F