As a trainee teacher, it can be rather intimidating to enter a school and work with the class Teaching Assistant (TA) who has quite often had many more years experience in a school setting.
When I first started my Phase 1b placement, I felt that it was very important to build an effective relationship with the class TA. This allowed us to create a mutual respect and increase my confidence.
In each of my lesson plans I included a section that was specifically for the role of the TA. In this, I included great detail so that the TA understood their specific jobs for the session. I always aimed to give the plan to the TA the day before the session allowing them the opportunity to reflect on their own knowledge and think of any questions that they may need to know before the session. Each morning I would meet with the TA to ensure they understood what they were doing, as well as gain their opinion of the session.
As easy as it is to assign the TA to the lower ability children, I did try to use them in the most effective way. I found that the TA was great to extend the higher ability children’s knowledge. A TA can also be very helpful when it comes to assessment if you make sure that you outline what, who and how they should assess within the lesson.
TARGET: To continue to look at the most effective ways using a TA within the lesson.
Assessment is an area that I am constantly striving to improve within my Professional Practice. Prior to Phase 1b I had a very basic understanding of how assessment can be used successfully and effectively, as well as methods that can be used.
One form of assessment that I used in each lesson on my Phase 1b practice was traffic lights. I found that this was a very simple way of assessing the children’s confidence and understanding of the work completed. Children would colour in the traffic light red, orange or green, in accordance with how they felt about that piece of work.
Red – the child was unsure about the work and found it difficult.
Orange – the child found the work OK, but struggled at times.
Green – the child understood and was happy with the work.
This allowed me to see the children’s own opinion of the work and I was able to compare this with the outcome/results of the work completed. I was able to then use this to decide which direction I would proceed in that would allow the child to make progress and deepen their understanding.
I found this method very helpful, however it may not always be accurate. Some children may just copy those around them or due to confidence may not always be truthful. With this in mind, I would have conversations with children to gain a deeper understanding.
TARGET: Continue to find different ways of formative assessment to ensure children’s progression.
I am a strong believer in hands on and practical science. I have seen for myself how it can engage and motivate children to investigate further and ask questions which help to develop their understanding.
In the final few weeks of the summer term, children planted beans as part of their science topic ‘Plants’. Children planted these themselves, cared for them and kept a diary, recording their observations of the bean as it grew over the weeks. I found that this was a great way for children to take responsibility for their work and you could see that the children had a sense of pride when their bean began to grow.
Even after the summer holidays I have received an update onthe beans (they could challenge Jack and the Beanstalk!!), showing a positive impact on the children’s attitudes towards learning and their development of understanding.
TARGET: To continue to include physical and hands on experiences and experiments with in science topics.
During my Phase 1b placement I produced and delivered the topic lessons that were based on The Great Fire of London. Although there were not many lessons available to spend on the topic, I believed that it was right to give the children the opportunity to explore, discover and ask many questions.
In the first lesson, I introduced children to 1600’s London by showing a picture of current day London and a drawing of 1600’s London. Children were then given the opportunity to explore the pictures, discussing the similarities and differences they could see. Children fed their ideas in to a class discussion which prompted further questions to be asked and allowed children to think critically and develop their own understanding and perspectives.
In the next lessons that followed children engaged with creating a timeline of The Great Fire of London, focusing on key events and times. They developed their understanding of how we know about events that have happened in the past and used a variety of historical terms.
I was also able to spare time for the children to create their own Great Fire of London landscape. Children painted the background and buildings and added coloured squares of paper for the windows and doors of the buildings. Although the format was given to the children, the children’s creations were all different and presented their own ideas and understanding of the Great Fire of London. Children were able to develop their skills and techniques, creating effective and colourful pieces of work for the class display.
If I was to do this topic again, I would allow for the children to partake in more independent investigative work.
TARGET: Use activities that will allow children to investigate further about the topic.
In a recent science seminar we looked at how scientific skills can be developed through practical enquiries.
Enquiry skills include:
- Raising Questions
- Using Observations
- Planning and conducting investigations
- Interpreting evidence and drawing conclusions
- Communicating, reporting and reflecting
We can develop these enquiry skills by:
- Providing children with opportunities to encounter materials and phenomena first hand.
- Providing challenging tasks whilst also providing scaffold support.
- Teaching specific techniques needed for advancing skills.
- Helping Children to record their ideas in ways that support systematic working and review.
Working scientifically includes:
- Observing over time – Magic Flowers. Cut out a paper flower and fold the petals inwards. Place the flower in a tray of water and observe what happens. The paper absorbs the water up the petals causing the petals to drop and the flower to open.
- Pattern Seeking – Reaction Strips. Drop the strip and see how long it takes for your partner to catch the strip. See if the times get better or worse. Reaction times can be affected by many thing (e.g. tiredness, concentration etc.)
- Identifying, classifying and grouping – Animal Sort. Sort the animals in to groups. There are many ways in which animals can be sorted depending on your focus.
- Comparative and fair testing (controlled investigations) – Bubbles. Blowing bubbles. How do you make it a fair test? Same person would blow each time, at the same rate, same mixture of bubbles etc.
- Research using secondary sources.
It is important when teaching any science lesson that a working scientifically learning objective is included. This therefore allows the child to progress in both areas of science, developing their skills and knowledge.
There are many ways that schools can increase parental involvement, whether this is inviting parents into the classroom or updating them at the comfort of their own home.
Obviously it can be most effective to speak to parents face to face, but with many parents having long working hours and very little time to go into school, other options must be thought of. The increasing popularity of technology is an ideal approach to use, whether this is through social media or blogging, parents can be kept up to date on activities happening within school. Or for a more personal update on their child, some schools opt for electronic student profiles, allowing both teachers and parents to comment and discuss the child’s work. These can be updated regularly and kept as an electronic copy over the internet allowing for easy access.
Other options to increase parental engagement involves inviting parents and family into school for them to join in with the children’s learning. From this they may learn new information and approaches that will enable them to support their child at home.
TARGET: Look at how schools use social media to update parents.
It is all well and good for children to learn the skills and theory taught in maths, however if they do not know how to apply it, how can they use it in the future?
It is important that we consider the needs of all children within our lessons. Children with ASD tend to have difficulty in applying skills learnt to real life contexts and therefore we must approach this issue and give them the opportunity to link theory with reality. One approach for this is by taking children out of the classroom.
The specific example above shows an approach for taking a class of year 5 children to an airport with a specific focus on the measurement strand within the primary maths curriculum, although there are many cross-curricular links available to other subjects.
From just one setting there are many possibilities that will engage and motivate but also assist children in their learning. This will not just benefit the children cognitively but also socially and emotionally, with many of them increasing their confidence when in public places. We are encouraging children to think and reflect, being conscientious about their work and others.
TARGET: To continue looking at different approaches of encouraging children to apply theory learnt with reality.