Bored of Displays?!

Since the summer holiday, I have been trying to redo/revamp/reinvigorate the display boards in ‘Room 3’. Unfortunately I don’t have my own classroom, 9 English teachers share 5 class rooms, so you can imagine they get a little messy and a little unkempt because no one has full ownership or responsibility for their own room. Luckily however, this year, I have been timetabled in ‘Room 3’ for the vast majority of my lessons and I love it! It’s the best class room on our corridor, in my opinion because it has a mini stage in an alcove to the side of the room, so it’s perfect from Drama, and being a Drama and English teacher, I find this a particular bonus! It also means I have a lovely bay window that I can stick more things on!!

Just before the summer term ended I was appointed as a Lead Practitioner so over the summer I thought it would be good to make a start on preparing my classroom so that it really focused and advocated effective teaching and learning. I magpied ideas from Twitter (particular thanks and gratitude go to @LauraLolder and @fod3 for their ideas and resources) and set to creating new displays and updating existing ones. One I am particularly proud of is my Teaching and Learning themed board: ‘How/What are we learning?’ On this board, which is at the front of the room by the whiteboard, I have lots of key pedagogical terminology, techniques and prompts for effective learning. One of my best resources are my ‘What Went Well/Even Better If’ slips that have the visual images of thought and speech bubbles on. Pupils use these at any time in the lesson to reflect on their learning, confidence and progress and they use them really well. I am also pleased with the boards I have dedicated to GCSE information and KS3. I am nearly done with the KS3 one, just need to add my vocab ideas (another borrowed idea from Twitter!). I hope that the pupils in KS4 will refer to the GCSE board if they need information or want to see WAGOLL.

I really hope that the pupils feel they’re as useful as I want them to be for them! I am referring to them in lessons and they have been on the ball when we have played ‘spot the differences in room 3’ every week since the new term began! It makes my day when one pupil asks what something is or how something is spelt and another pupil shouts out ‘it’s on the board!’.

My last mission is to add a ‘stuck station’ header up near Literacy Corner that will encourage pupils to be more independent and seek their own ways to solve a problem. This will be used as a physical place where pupils can go to to pick up help sheets that I have prepared for that lesson or for advice on how to become ‘unstuck’ with some pointers for example on what to do before asking me for help. I will upload an image of that when it’s done. I am currently playing with train signs on google images and trying to add my own text so it looks like a train station sign *geek*!!

Here are some images of ‘Room 3’.

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I am particularly interested in pupils being able to make the best progress possible so I am proud of my colour coded thought bubbles above the White Board that correspond to Writing assessment focuses for levels 3-6 they are great for AfL and pupils’ reflection.
I have also tried to add some personal touches with my Penguin book cover mobile and my poetry post cards.

I have really enjoyed doing my displays; it’s been a bit of a hard slog but when people comment on how nice the room looks or when the pupils use the displays I know it’s been worth it!
What do you do in your class room? Please share too!
Kathy 🙂

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A *Buzz*: Three Weeks In?

When I started this blog back in the summer holidays, I was buzzing! I was excited to start the role I had been appointed to: Lead Practitioner in English; I was excited to be organising Summer School; I was excited about the classes I had taken through, and met at the Roll Over and it was the holidays: I was excited about all the time I had to plan and research and do displays. It’s safe to say that in July I was excited and buzzing about teaching! But can I say the same three weeks into a new term?

Maybe humming is a more accurate description for how I am feeling right now. I feel slightly overwhelmed by having a full timetable with my new role; I want to do things for my new role that I don’t have time to do (it’s soon to be sorted not a union issue!) I am eager and full of ideas but can’t fit it all in. I feel a little overwhelmed that, in trying to be more organised and effective in my marking and feedback, I have lost the last three Sundays: spending on average 5 hours to mark a set of assessments or books. I feel overwhelmed and slightly inadequate to all the wonderful ideas and people I am following on Twitter. I feel unable to organise the sea of ideas I have in my head for lessons, displays, things I want to introduce/embed with my earners to make them learn deeper. I want to alter/update/redo and improve displays and I have a catalogue of images on my phone of things I capture from what I see on places like Twitter and Facebook,so I can remember them all because right now I can’t keep everything at the forefront of my mind! And most irritatingly I feel a big sense of frustration that I have things started and unfinished, I have things I haven’t started or I have things ‘finished’ that aren’t perfect.

Is it safe to say that teachers are too hard on themselves? I have certainly been accused of this. In striving to always better ourselves we put more pressure on ourselves to beat what we’re currently doing. But in doing that are we actually getting any better?

My personal target for this term was to be more effective in my marking and feedback. I already knew I gave detailed feedback but I wanted to give it more frequently and I wanted it to better inform my planning so it fed into my teaching more comfortably.
By choosing this target and having worked hard at it over the past three weeks, I have realised a few things:
1. I am marking more often and it’s taking me longer (which isn’t a bad thing because I think I needed to mark more than I did last year) but it is taking up more of my home time so I need to find a more effective routine and develop a more effective system for my marking.
2. The value of using marking to plan more effectively. Today for instance I have marked year 9 assessments on analysing film posters and have planned the lesson for tomorrow based on my findings and based on what the pupils need in order to improve in that specific reading skill. They all have clear targets, we will look at WAGOLL and they will improve theirs and work on new analyses of a new subject but still applying their skills in an improved way.
3. How wonderful Twitter has been for being inspired and motivated by people. I have been able to use Twitter to help me start to achieve my target: I have been following @teachertoolkit and @leadinglearner and have not only used their 5 Minute tools but have adapted them to suit my school and practice so that I have clear and effective records of how my marking is informing my planning, teaching and learning.

All in all, by setting this target I am improving in more than just one area. It has allowed me to introduce and develop DIRT to my classes. So far they love ‘playing with dirt’ and they get it because my marking is better and clearer and they have specific time dedicated to improving within a topic rather than at the end of it when it holds no relevance. Therefore my feedback-lessons are more meaningful

I am sharing my experience of the 5 Minute marking and planning sheets with staff and thus I am able to start establishing myself within my Lead Practitioner role despite the lack of physical time on my timetable to coach/ mentor yet; so far staff including the Head have thanked me for sharing the resources which is great. And my displays have got a lot better and have been commented upon by SLT; I have started to adapt all of them so they are meaningful and useful: a big task but one I am enjoying it’s just so time consuming.

So I think what I am trying to share in this post is that my buzz and excitement has waned slightly since the summer but it’s because I am trying so hard, as most if us do, to be better and do right by the kids. I am juggling a couple of things that are not all running smoothly just yet but that I am ‘getting there’ with and I think the biggest thing I have learned so far this term is to be more patient… Perseverance and patience is going to mean I produce quality lessons and feedback that will help my pupils learn better and then allow me to share better practice and therefore ‘lead’ better. I just have to wait for it to develop a bit first!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people that have so far shared resources and inspiration and motivation with me in Twitter… It really has kept me motivated and inspired and I hope that when I feel less overwhelmed and more settled that I can share more of my ideas and good practice and help to inspire or motivate some of you too. Here’s to the next four weeks until half term and let’s see how we are all getting on with our juggling acts then! Hopefully if we are not *buzzing* we are still humming gently!

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