Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Communication in the Classroom

Smartling, a company that translates websites, are currently running a 'Communication in the Classroom' project on Pinterest.  This really got me thinking about what communication strategies I use in the classroom with my students and what works best.  After much thought, I narrowed it down to these three:
  • Discussion, Questioning & Echoing
  • Simple & Explicit Instructions
  • A variety of teaching methodologies

Personally, one of the most important and simple communication techniques I use with my students is questioning.  The importance of a good questioning strategy cannot be overemphasized, particularly when engaging in discussion with the class.  Not only can questioning be differentiated to cater for a variety of needs in the classroom, but also it can determine what direction a discussion can take.  

Bloom’s taxonomy of questioning will forever be a core teacher tool.  I have one of these stuck to my table which helps prompt me when engaging in debate or discussion with my class.   I think its an essential for any teacher! 

Blooms Taxonomy for the iPad 
In keeping with 21st century learning and the ever evolving nature of Technology.   I came across this recently, a Bloom’s taxonomy for the iPad!
Here are a selection of apps that challenge the children with different levels of higher order thinking.  (I am a HUGE fan of Comic Life as you've probably seen from past posts and tweets.  The children can bring any topic to life with this fun and creative app.)

After asking a question, checking for understanding is sometimes just as important.  Sometimes asking the children to repeat your question can ensure they know exactly what is expected of them. 

Communicating with EAL students 
When working with children for whom English is a second language keeping instruction short and simple is key.  Depending on the difficulty of the task or activity, you may need to be more explicit.  Things we often take for granted, need to be precisely explained. 
The use of body language, tone of voice and intonation can help make understanding easier for EAL (English as an additional Language) students.

Multiple Intelligences
Gardners Multiple Theory of Intelligences would argue that each of us possess a particular area of intelligence which can influence how we learn and what we are interested in.   There are nine types of intelligences according to Gardner. 

In order to meet variety of learning styles in the classroom, I try to vary my methods of teaching with the children.  Here are a variety of the strategies I use in the classroom:
  • Visuals, Pictures, Photographs & Powerpoints
  • Videos
  •  Groupwork & Pairwork
  • Active Learning (E.g. trails, games, concrete materials)
  • Drama
  • Art
  • Project work
  • Written assignments (diaries, anchor charts, responses, reflections etc)

Some activities will suit particular children better than others, but by varying methodologies I can only hope to cater for the variety of intelligences in the classroom.  

I'm sure I have missed some, so feel free to comment or suggest some ways you communicate with your class. Have you any tried and tested systems or approaches? 


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Division of Fractions lesson using the Show Me App

At present I am trying to incorporate some aspects of an Inquiry Based Learning approach into my teaching, particularly within maths.

I gave this a go with teaching division of fractions recently.

Instead of teaching the concept of dividing fractions in a traditional chalk and talk approach, I armed the children with iPads and placed a problem on the board instead.

"Sean had 3 pepperoni pizzas. He cut them into quarters.   How many friends would he be able to give a piece of pizza to?"

The children were then challenged to work in pairs to solve the problem using the 'Show Me' App.

This is a brilliant app for use in maths class.  The children created slides to show how exactly they solved the problem.  I encouraged them to draw pictures and use as many notes and labels as they could.
The app then allows them to record their voiceover as they flick through their slides.   I was so impressed by the level of understanding by many of the children.

To complete the task I asked the children to try and write an equation for the problem.  Many of them did this without any support!
Finally we discussed the equation and what it meant.  We then completed some more problems.  Definitely a more interesting and active means of learning about division of fractions!


Friday, 12 December 2014

Polar Bear Christmas Art

We created these cosy polar bears just before Christmas using chalk pastels and black sugar paper.

I think they're the only ones enjoying the chilly spell at the moment! 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Music Genre Project

Project work often falls under the SESE area.. but why not in music?

If you want to try something different with your class, or you're exploring the notion of 'genre' in music this is the perfect project! The class will love it! 

I distributed this task sheet to the children: Music Genre Project  .  Feel free to download and edit as appropriate to your class. 

The children worked individually on a project.  I wrote down a variety of different genres on slips of paper and put them in a hat.  Children then chose a slip of paper/genre from the hat and worked on this for a week. 
This would work well alternatively as a group project.  
In order to keep some variety in the projects I distributed the slips of paper.  However, if there is a style of music a child is particularly passionate about I would encourage them to go with this!

The children were given a minute to present their projects to the class. 
I encouraged the rest of the class to ask questions.  They also wrote down one interesting fact they learned for each project which was presented.  

This is a great project for a rainy day or as an early finisher activity. 

Here are some pictures of the final projects

Let me know how it goes for you! 


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Land League History Lesson

There are some topics within the 6th class history curriculum which can be heavy and hard to make fun or active... particularly (dare I say it) when it comes to Irish History.

I created this lesson to:

  • Get the children researching and investigating. It's important that children discover or find the information for themselves and for a meaningful purpose. 
  • Incorporate drama into the lesson.  Drama is a wonderful tool within history to help the children develop empathy.  It allows them to step back in time and into the shoes of the characters. 
  • Develop teamwork skills.  Children had to work together to come up with an appropriate campaign. 
I have attached a copy of the task sheet I distributed to the children here: 

I was amazed with what the children came up with! Some re created the scenes when Devoy, Parnell and Davitt joined forces.  Others distributed campaign leaflets, posters and voting slips.  Speeches and chants were made to win the support of the crowd.  Some children even brought in their own props and clothes to really get into character. 

Check out some of the pictures on our twitter page!

Finally I created a display of some of the posters and campaign slips created by the children.

This turned out to be one of my favourite lessons this year. 
The class LOVED it! 

Learning about the Land League will never be boring again! 
Let me know how you get on! 


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Angles & Lines Maths Trail for Senior Classes

As part of Maths week, I carried out a maths trail with my class on the topic of Angles and lines.  

What is a maths trail? 
"A Maths Trail is an organised walk through an area close to school where pupils can experience maths in the real world. A trail will help to highlight for them the huge use we make of number in our everyday life and how Maths surrounds us in even the most unusual areas" (PDST, 2014)
The trail I used offered the children the opportunity to explore the use of angles and lines in the environment around them.   Before starting I set out some ground rules. 

·      Children formed groups of three and four. 
·      I then assigned one piece of equipment to each child as follows:
o   Chalk
o   A large protractor
o   A metre tape
·      All children were given the task sheet and set out in their groups to complete each task.

TIP! Before setting out on the trail.  Make sure to discuss what is required on the trail prior to leaving the classroom!
The children absolutely loved the activity and for many helped increase their understanding of lines and angles. 

I have attached a free copy of the maths trail I used here! Google Docs Maths Trail File

Feel free to download and try it out with your class. (Please note: Share the file to your own account before editing! :))  Let me know how you get on!

Don’t forget to discuss your findings when you return to the classroom!

If you're thinking of creating your own trails, PDST have some great advice here and prompt questions: 

There are also some other examples of trails you can use here: 


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Free Maths Websites Suitable for Homework

The interest in maths websites which allow teachers to 'assign' a game or topic to be completed as homework or in class has grown considerably in the past year or two.  

The purpose of this post is to name some maths websites where teachers can 'add their class' and monitor their students progress as they play fun, free, educational games! 

  • Prodigy Games A GUARANTEED hit with the class! This is a fantastic maths website where the children can play mathematical games against their classmates and other pupils around the globe.  FREE and very simple for teachers to use and generate a class. Teachers can assign homework tasks based on different areas of the curriculum and decide on the number of questions. Give it a go! 
  • Khan Academy  Another fantastic free resource. This is slightly different to other maths websites such as prodigy maths (above), mangahigh, mathletics etc.  Children are assigned a mission to complete with a variety of maths problems and questions to complete.  The beauty of this website is that there are online videos which the children can watch to help them solve a problem if they get stuck.  The children can also work at their own pace, therefore catering for differentiation needs within the classroom.  A detailed break down of the children's success rates is available to the teacher, as well as the amount of time the child spends online and the areas in which they are struggling.  
  • This is fantastic as it allows the teacher  an opportunity to pinpoint an area the child is having difficulty with and the chance to work on this.  This website is a little more fiddley to navigate and set up the class. However, bare with it! It is a wonderful tool when put in place.  

Why not give a some or all of these a go! I will keep the list updated as I make more discoveries.  Feel free to comment with others you may have found, or indeed your experience of the following examples.


Blog Update

I have been off the radar with my blog in recent months, but alas, I have returned from my hibernation! :P 

I received a few emails asking where photos of my previous displays have disappeared to! 
Let me explain! 

Unfortunately, I had to remove previous posts and photos as I have now moved to new teaching position in a new school. 

However, if there were any posts/displays which you were interested in, feel free to give me an email or comment and I will gladly share any details with you! 
In the meantime watch out for new displays coming soon.  Also, I often post on my class twitter account http://www.twitter.com/misswardsclass. 

In terms of the blog itself, this year I'm going to be taking a slightly different approach.   While I will still post classroom displays, I hope to also broaden the nature of the blog to demonstrate my use of active, discovery learning within my daily teaching practice. 

Finally, I hope to give readers some insight into some of the work I am currently undertaking as part  the Masters in Education and Training Management  (e-learning strand) in Dublin City University.  
This year as part of my final year thesis I hope to conduct some work in the area of mathematics and inquiry based learning.  This is an active, discovery based approach to teaching mathematics which I will be blogging about in the distant future. As I go through my journey, I hope that it may give teachers (particularly senior teachers) some ideas for their maths lessons.  

Watch this space! 
Enjoy the final week of Term 1 (where has the time gone!)  and Happy Halloween! 


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

6th Class Novels Review - Which to choose?

This is a topic of discussion I find frequently comes up amongst Senior Teachers.   There are so many novels out there that its difficult to know which ones are most appropriate and which will capture the interest of the class.
Here I'm going to give a quick run down of four novels I used as a 6th class teacher last year.  

Some teachers take a novel a term.  However,  I found that giving a novel a four to five week timeframe was more realistic (particularly if you are just using novels as your reading programme with the class). If any other 6th class teachers have further recommendations for novels I would be delighted to hear them! Just leave a comment below! 

Book 1: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

This was such a hit with the class! A fabulous book which deals with grief, friendship, family and adventure.  I would highly recommend this book.   A nice length, some lovely characters and themes to be explored.  More suited to 6th class. There are also some fantastic online resources to support the children's study of the book. 
Just a caution!  The book may not be suitable if a child in the class has suffered a recent bereavement.  

Book 2: The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

A challenging and gripping read.  Give this novel a bit more time as it is quite lengthy.  This book would be more suited to a capable and confident sixth class. 
Being very rich in detail, this classic has fantastic opportunities for vocabulary development.   Also, a chance for children and particularly the girls in the class to explore the fantasy genre.  A big hit with the boys! 

Book 3: Holes by Louis Sachar  (WHAT A HIT!!)

This book was by FAR the biggest bit in the class.  The children loved it and couldn't get enough of it!  With some charming characters, a great plot and easy to read, I can guarantee this book will go down a storm!  This would be suitable in a 5th or 6th class.   There are also so many fantastic resources out there to use with the book.  I will link some in a future post. 

Book 4: Hagwitch by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

I was delighted to have had the opportunity to read a book by an irish author in class last year.  The children also really enjoyed this book.  The magic, mystery and unique storyline will retain the interest of the children throughout.  This would be more suited to a capable sixth class.   The only downfall of the book is the lack of resources available to support study of the novel, so you may have to do a bit of extra planning with this one! 

Its also worth baring in mind that your local county library may have class sets of books available to loan.  Last year I was very fortunate to have the support of Celbridge Library and their librarian Aisling who was always on hand to help us source interesting books for the children.
You could stand to save your school a fortune if you're lucky enough to have this service available to you.  Definitely worth looking into!