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.
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.
Tuesday 28th June saw a fun filled day all based on Space at Morland Area C of E Primary School.
Being a teaching assistant at the school, I expected to just be helping one of the teachers with their activities. However I was soon volunteered by one of the teachers (who knew about my science specialism) to lead one of the sessions.
The day ran as a carousel with the children split into the three houses. There were three different sessions run by the teachers as well as an hour spent at the pop up Planetarium which visited the school. Each session lasted 1 hour and the groups of children were of mixed age (5-11 years). I took this in to account and when planning the activities I ensured that all children would benefit from effective teaching.
My session was based on the phases of the moon. I started by asking the children if they had seen the moon the night before. I then asked them what shape it was and if they could describe any other shapes that they had seen the moon before. Having done this, I asked the children if they knew why the moon changed shape. They were not aware of why and so I showed them a rap that taught the children the different phases of the moon as well as how this happens. The rap reinforced my teaching and enabled me to eliminate any misconceptions that children had (the rap is available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBc8QHSsFgE) . This was enjoyed by all children and they were then fully engaged and encouraged to take part in creating the phases of the moon using Oreos. Having never worked with some of the children before I made it clear to them my behaviour expectations – especially when using the Oreos! Children worked in mixed age and abilities to create these and once completed I then assessed that the children understood the names of the different phases of the moon by having a quick quiz and asking the children the name of the phase. I knew that this may not last the full hour with some groups and therefore had prepared for children to discuss and design a new space suit for Tim Peake. As a group we talked about what Tim would need to survive in space and then allowed children to add extras and make the suit look exciting rather than being plain white.
The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy my session and their achievements through the day were relayed to parents through the school’s Twitter Account as well as speaking to parents at the end of the day.