North Coast 500

With our festival and holiday cancelled, we embraced the opportunity to explore the UK in Gretal 2.0

// 1 Scotland

We didn’t make this easy for our (very southern-based) selves. We didn’t just want to explore say Loch Lomond or the Cairngorms. Nope, we wanted to do the North Coast 500. 500 miles around the northern most part of Scotland. That was a schlep!

REALLY far North!

The stops after we arrived in Inverness:

// Day 1:

  • Invergarden – oil rig cemetery (Geographer’s dream…apparently)
  • Badbea – archaeological site where people lived on cliff edge until 1906
  • John O’Groats – first midgey experience. Sweet little brewery with knowledgeable guy who told us about the octagonal room and table Jan de Groot built due to quarrelling in his family about who should be head of the table. There were also eight doors: problem solver extraordinaire.
  • Dunnet distillery – nice lady walked the dog while we bought Rock Rose gin.
  • Dunnet head – I SAW PUFFINS and was very excited.
  • Strathy Head – beautiful camping spot with our own little bay.

// Day 2

BEN HOPE DAY

  • Morning swim with Tryfan – first time he wagged his tail swimming!
  • Tryfan’s first mountain and first Munro, my first Munro and David’s first mountain/Munro with a dog.
  • The world’s Northernmost Munro.

// Day 3:

  • Kayak on Loch Hope before we left – baby shark (Tryfan!)
  • Ceannabeine Beach – BEAUTIFUL (pulled over mid drive as it was so inviting!)
  • Durness – time warp little shop (got an excellent selection of hungover snacks)
  • The Old School House takeaway – kitchen was in the old Headmaster’s office
  • BEACH OF DEATH AKA Oldshoremore Beach – dead puffins, dead other birds, dead jellyfish, dead dolphin (and probably more that we missed)

// Day 4:

  • Scourie – meh
  • Kylesku Bridge – a good bridge, but not good enough to stop and photograph
  • Stoer – walked 6km to see old man of Stoer and saw some seals FINALLY.
  • Lochinver – good, but wet so looked for a pub to sit in. None took dogs inside. Mental.

// Day 5

  • Drove to Ullapool – nice mountain shop and cafe, but got attacked by midges…again.
  • Corrieshalloch Gorge – midgie hat needed, fun wobbly bridge built in Victorian times. Tryfan trying to walk over a wire bridge was fun to watch – weird walk!
  • Realised we had missed some geology geek-fest so drove back 20miles to visit Knochan Crag National Park. It was a bigger hike up than we realised. We got to see the however many years of the rocks and David liked touching the history haha!
  • Gairloch – the best hot chocolate from a young couple. Treated ourselves to a campsite WITH SHOWERS. Dreamy. Millcroft pub for dinner – great food except the whiskey dessert I ordered did not have any whiskey in it – livid.

// Day 6

  • Hillbillies cafe in Gairloch – delightful!
  • Beinn Alligin circuit – big Munro day! Forced Tryfan to go in his rucksack to go down off the first peak. Second time, he crawled in after having been taken clambering with David for a while!
  • Gorgeous loch parking spot – fire on, citronella joss sticks in van and in our hands!

// Day 7

  • Downloaded a Scottish Artists playlist so I could sing ‘I’ll take the high road and you take the low road and I’ll be in Scotlaaaand befooooore you’, which I enjoyed. David also 100% enjoyed this….I’m pretty sure.
  • Applecross – lovely walled garden with cafe, bought a book based on a murder that took place near there in 1869, which was really great.
  • David was looking forward to driving the bit from Applecross over the mountain pass as it was mean to be mental! There were treacherous bits, but I think the fog and rain took away from it a bit.
  • Skye – Portree – bought two gins to escape the toursits (hypocrites I know).
  • Culnacnoc – waterfall surrounded by many sheep much to Tryfan’s curiosity.
  • Staffin harbour – parked up for the night. Incredible sky.

// Day 8

  • A little seal kept popping up to say hello in the bay as we read
  • Quiraing – The Needle, The Table and The Prison were conquered. I genuinely thought this was a little walk….it was a proper hike with very boggy bits! Tryfan enjoyed the latter, but didn’t enjoy the need for the roadside shower afterwards!
  • The Gallery cafe up on the hill – nice stodge
  • Glenbrittle campsite – no showers/loos, but flat with good view. Lots of holes which Tryfan dug up and we filled in! Enjoyed the beach run to see the cows.
  • Really midgey which was fun when Tryfan refused to come in and David was chasing him!

// Day 9

  • Explored the beach
  • Fairy pools – SO busy, but kept walking further and found one to ourselves. Tryfan didn’t enjoy us getting in.
  • Kintail – beautiful loch and great hotel for dinner and drinks filled with locals.

// Day 10

  • Kayak on the loch in Kintail – LOADS of seals popping up
  • Eilean Donan Castle – bought the world’s most expensive cow toy (I didn’t see the 1 in the tens column….) Had a tasty MacHaggis Toastie.
  • Random spot, can’t find on map – was nice until Tryfan rolled in HUMAN poo. The importance of burying/taking it with you has never been more discussed and whinged about than when we took him down to the loch, gagging and scrubbing his curls!!
  • Van cinema again

// Day 11

  • Inverness castle – the finish line!

We had a little detour to see my Gran in Forres and then to see David’s friend in Aviemore. No pit stops after that – 11 hour drive home to get David back in time for A Level results day. Never. Again.

Swapping old for new

We finally made the jump from our VW T25:Gretal for Renault Trafic conversion: Gretal 2.0

Gretal needed too much work and time spent on her and we just couldn’t do that. We sold her to a lovely guy who had the time and know-how to fix her up and he sends me photo updates! She’s going to be a wedding vehicle!

We bought a conversion and she’s doing well – a few tweaks needed as I think it was a bit of a bodge job, but she’s holding up well, drives faster than 50mph and is REALLY roomy!

We will miss the fellow VW camper waves and the classic look, but we enjoy not breaking down all the time.

Here’s to more #vanlife adventures

COVID 19

It’s been two years since I blogged. Turns out it took a pandemic for me to feel like I have something vaguely useful to share – being thrown out of my comfort zone definitely got my creative juices flowing.

We are now closed and since Thursday have been coming up with how to remotely teach/provide resources for the children.

I created a format for the school to use trying to include as many subjects as possible which other year group leaders have taken and developed for their year group.

My main issue was worrying about whether children would engage or not. I know our role is to provide what we can, but I wanted to make sure that the children use it.

1// Use Google Doc

I chose to do this on Google Docs

a) because there’s always a doc for all situations…

b) So the whole team can take a section to update from shared bank of resources

c)  It’s a live working document which reduces need to upload lots of documents throughout the day.

123

This last section I’m particularly excited about. I’ll upload the next part of the Fighting Fantasy Quest ending with the next choice. I’m hoping the voting poll for which direction they’d like to take alongside it being updated three times a day will keep the children logging on and engaging with a text while we are away. So far two children have voted already. Just awaiting permission to see if we can continue. We shall see!

poll

4

This section is a bit more creative and for them to dip in and out of throughout their time away. We have encouraged sharing pictures and links to give the children an audience for this learning.

2// Class doc and Maths class docs

These create a little forum for the  children to share their learning and write questions for the teacher. We will be calling around our class throughout each week, but this means we can answer questions about their learning if they’re stuck as we can’t presume parents can help with everything!

5

Maths set doc:

// They were straight into claiming a row and playing with the fonts – easiest buy-in ever!10

// We were ahead of the game and practised in Monday’s lesson so the children knew how to screenshot and what to expect from me.78

// We also added their logins as my set tend to never remember them…convenient!

Class doc:

// Have deleted the content for this as it’s just hellos and miss yous. Again, the claiming of a row and font changing got the biggest buy-in.

6

3// Step-by-step guide for parents to navigate

This includes handy bookmarks in Google Docs (thanks @daviderogers for the lesson – at a suitable distance of course)

12

How to from an even safer social distance!: 

  • Scroll to the section in the document you’d like to link to
  • Highlight the text and click  ‘insert’ then ‘bookmark’
  • 13Write the title that you’d like to link, highlight the text, right click and select ‘link’
  • 14Click on ‘bookmarks’ and select the correct text
  • 15

 

Et voila!

4// The importance that this is new and growing and will continually be tweaked!

We even are creating a new ‘team Corona chat’ purely to discuss the home learning so that we don’t miss anything in-between the chat and gifs and puppy photos. We mean business!

 

Things that go bump in the day…

I’ve spoken and written before, back in the days of Staffrm, about how important it is to ‘bump’ into previous knowledge all the time for it to have time to embed and be understood. As always, time is always blamed for this not happening properly in schools then *voila* they turn up in the next year group with gaps to be filled. Being back in Year 6 has highlighted this fact. In some cases, there are 6 years worth of gaps to determine and address and seal, which seems like a bottomless chasm to fill!

Here are some things we do in Year 6 to start filling these gaps, whilst not adding too much to the workload:

// Morning starters – 8:40 – 9am

  • These are tailored to Year 6 objectives and change after assessments to target specific grammar, punctuation and spelling issues whilst also developing their vocabulary (Unicorn word = they nominate new words that they disover from their reading and I pick one each day which will support their writing that week). Pictures are taken from Pobble365, Bing homepage and Unsplash.Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 16.58.00Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 17.07.18The children can technically come in any time between 8:40 and 9am. Children are expected to finish all 5 questions, so we have found they come into school earlier than at the start of the year. Parents seem to support this as we discussed the importance of learning time at the first Year 6 meeting that was held.

// Apps

Why kill ourselves by making our own resources all the time when there are amazing resources out there for a small price which have a massive impact?

  • I’ve been a big Times Table Rockstar fan for three years now and have finally got a team (and indeed school) on board with it too! We mainly use the sheets as a daily activity, but children are expected to use the website at home as part of their homework, so we get even more information from their heat map about what times tables need targeted in class.
  • Obviously, there are children who can’t access a computer at home, but investing in the app has helped this interestingly. We also provide these children with time at some point a few times a week to use an ipad – we do only have 2 children who need this, so this is manageable.
  • We stream for maths so displaying their heat maps in my set (top) is a great motivator – this isn’t always the case. Our children have a great embedded outlook on the importance of their individual improvement rather than comparing to others, so they all have their heat maps in their maths books so they can compare every 2-3 weeks.

img_20180326_130007.jpg

Spelling shed is something we have now rolled out across year 6 to help target not only our Y5/6 vocab and spelling rules but those from younger years too. Again, due to limited ICT resources, we use the printed packs, but this doubles as time to practise handwriting!

// Diagnostic Questions

Children in my set (top) should all be achieving ‘greater depth’ and because they are so confident in some areas, there’s no need to start at the beginning if they have a good understanding already – what a waste of time we just don’t have! Before each unit I set some diagnostic questions to assess for areas of particular strength and weakness to make sure that they’re all being stretched and supported as much as possible in each lesson – we only have an hour a day with them after all!

IMG_20180326_130533

// Review sessions

Across the school, we now do review sessions as feedback from Year 6 as it is something we kind of automatically do anyway. These sessions are based on marking that week – what have we noticed about individuals/groups/whole class and target those things. We all use a good old fashioned class list and make notes throughout week and every fortnight one of the lessons is timetabled to be a ‘review’ session.  This has now branched out into Maths too and, because it is timetabled, there’s no excuse for it to fall off. (Below is this week’s so it’s not as chocca with notes as normal)

20180329T072023.jpg

// Longer ‘starters’

Using review sessions and tests to analyse where we aren’t bumping into knowledge enough for children to understand how to use and apply it. It took me maybe an hour to break it all down and find test-style questions based on these areas for development so every lesson starts with Times Table Rockstars, followed by paired whiteboard work discussing up to four questions. The conversation is key thus the paired work.

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 19.12.40

//WEDWK stolen from @cooperjoe

What Else Do We Know?

Children have the opportunity to apply previous learning and their targets to current learning to ensure they stay fresh – fractions is always key. It’s also a way to find out (like in the second picture) where gaps are – thus why the longer starter pictured above has volume in it now!

 

Unbarred

Helloooo, new favourite brewer!

The aforementioned, Bison Beer‘s beer advent calendar is going down a treat and – quite frankly – I’m not sure what I’m going to do when it’s gone. So far I’ve had many treats, but my top three thus far all come from the same brewery: Unbarred. Why? I hear you ask. Well, read on:

1// The packaging is something to behold. Either simple and gorgeous colours (PA and RIPA) or just ruddy awesome design (Honeycomb Milkshake Pale)

2// What’s inside – don’t judge a beer by its cover. Oh wait, do because the beer on the inside of these cans is just as marvellous as the packaging. Really tasty and very different. Apparently, they have even made some adjustments to the Honeycomb Pale while responding to feedback (they’d be highly praised for this attitude in my lessons!)

1b// So, I’m not obsessed or anything, but the feel of the paper they’ve used on the packaging gives me the feels. You know there’s quality behind it!

Anyway, highly recommend and am hoping for these cans to turn up in Bison’s Hove Actually soon – so pretty (and tasty, I’m sure!)

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 20.41.42

(image stolen from their website)

Decembeer

****It’s the most wonderful time of the year (hope you sang that too!)****

I was bought the most magical birthday present this year: a Beer Advent Calendar (thanks, David!)

Best things about it:

> It’s very pretty

> It’s filled with local beers with beautiful labels

> I get to punch through a box each night

> I don’t have my advent treat before work (and accidentally have 5 days….)

Worst things about it:

> My giant hands feel even bigger as they struggle to extract the yeasty, hoppy goodness from their caverns.

Thank you Bison Beer!

circle-logo

Back in black

Back in black
I hit the sack
I’ve been too long I’m glad to be back
Yes, I’m let loose
From the noose
That’s kept me hanging about
I’ve been looking at the sky
‘Cause it’s gettin’ me high
Forget the hearse ’cause I never die
I got nine lives
Cat’s eyes
Abusin’ every one of them and running wild
‘Cause I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back, back
Well, I’m back in black
Yes, I’m back in black

I have been a tad quiet on here due to an experience where my whole purpose was questioned. I was made to feel like I couldn’t teach and – being the reflective worrier that I am – I began to believe it.

Sat ,dreading the end of PrimaryRocksLive17, I remember listening to  Michael Tidd .  During his assessment speech, one piece of advice stuck with me on a never-ending loop: something along the lines of, ‘you might just need to try a different school’ (forgive the paraphrasing…!) These words constantly rang sharply in my ears:

> Every time I picked up the phone to the union.

> Every time I cried during the day.

> Every time I became stressed about what other job I could do other than teaching.

I am glad that I was otherwise surrounded by the teachers, children and parents that I was, or I genuinely envisage that I’d be working outside of education currently.

So here I am. I’ve landed my first Head of Year post in a very large local school, which I can cycle to every day now. I’m nearly one term down and I’m loving it. Working hard to find balance between leadership and teaching, but thriving on the challenge. There’s also a helluva lot of amazing stuff that they are doing here and I’m going to have to spend a good amount of time sharing their amazing practice here to spread the word.

I’m back in black*

*(technically green most of the time…ginger rules)

Anyway. Massive thanks to the Tidd for those words which have never rung truer. Massive thanks to those who ring me with solid advice and a well-worn ear when I send a text and they know I need to rant. And obviously a massive thanks to the below Primary Rocks reprobates for always being there and checking in when they know the fan has been well and truly piled on (delicious imagery there).

primary rocks

 

Cobwebs

I am the car cobweb. Not just the cobweb across the path in the morning, so easy to swipe away. Not the one hiding in the ceiling corner, so easy to ignore. I’m the stubborn one that even at 70miles an hour in a rainstorm won’t quit it.

It is that time of year where we are all wanting to cling on to ensuring we somehow maintain stability whilst sports day, music assemblies, transition days, Y6 plays etc keep popping up into the diary. I am finding it that bit mentally harder because I am off to pastures new come September, so my mind is wandering. I’m sure we all know some who have sacked it in already, but that’s not fair on the children and in the long run makes our remaining job harder as expectations and standards slip. I am the car cobweb.

With references in and paperwork signed, I could officially celebrate last Monday and I did. Moving into a five-form Year 6 as year leader from three-form Year 4 has filled me with a variety of (cobweb-analogy-supporting) feelings:

// Excitement: having a dance in the motorway ‘breeze’.

The promotion. The school. The location. The age group. The size. All of these aspects of the role re-lit my fire and my heart back in the game. The promotion gives me something further to get my teeth into. The school seems so welcoming and I’ve heard positive things from friends who have children there. The location means I could get a bike, cycle to exercise, not leave early and still be at my desk ready by 7:30. The age group is something I have missed (I may live to regret that!) The size means more children and more staff to keep abreast of, but having been mainly two of us for a year, I will enjoy sharing the planning!

// Unadulterated mind explosion: spider rebuilding web at 70mph.

I’ve been itching to find out more about the school, the topics, the trips and residentials. I’ve been brushing up on basics needed, researching the Mayans, buying new books and generally being overly excited. My ever so wise friend kindly told me to calm down and start with my three most important things as I can’t juggle everything. I’ve given some thought to this and will expand when my mind has settled and I can be more focussed…

// Terror: the car wash.

Perhaps more so about maths as I just haven’t thought about half of that curriculum since I was last in Year 6. I have sat down this evening to have a look through the Arithmetic paper to test my rusty skills! With a few revisions, I did at least remember the processes. Having had lots of CPD this year about Maths mastery, however, I will need to spend some time applying what I’ve learned before September.

// Relief: parked up in the sun basking.

Those who know me know that it’s been an interesting six months for me. This job is not only a great, local opportunity, but also needed for my own mental health. Happy days.

To all my car cobweb colleagues towards the end of the year, good luck clinging on and enjoy your summer!! And yes, I’ll wash my car…

 

 

 

 

 

Primary/Secondary collaboration

The visuals to accompany the talk are here (fieldworkleadershiponlinepdf-170423151724) and David Rogers has kindly written up the presentation which I have copied across:

This post tells the outline story of a collaboration between two schools, one a primary school and the other a secondary school.  The story was told at the Geographical Association’s Annual Conference in Guildford.

The collaboration started out as a bit of #beermatgeog where the idea of working with a group of students across phases was thought out. As I’ve mentioned previously, connecting primary classrooms is a straight forward process in my view, but then I am not one for letting barriers get in to the way. I do however ask readers to accept that this is a story about a particular context and to get in touch if you’d like to talk further about the detail of the collaboration. A massive thanks to Leah Sharp who has very much been the driving force behind the scheme.

There is always some debate around focusing on one particular set of children over another. This is only right as we, as a profession, should reflect on what we do always. For this sequence of lessons, we decided to focus on pupil premium students. This is simply because they needed something extra. Whilst I can follow the logic if treating all students the same in a classroom setting, the outcomes for this group of students are below their peers with similar starting points and therefore it is the morally right thing to do to try to help them accelerate as much as possible. Not to catch up with their more affluent peers, but so that they meet age expectations and, ultimately, have better life chances. Having been Pupil Premium Champion for the past four years, whole school approaches must be different. We worked with 20 Year 4 students and a selection of Year 8, 10 and 11 students. The aim of the project was to:

Anyhow, the reasons why this collaboration took places are as follows.

Primary:

Secondary:

In primary, a group of children who were behind in their writing were selected. At secondary, no new content was covered but the same material was revisited. I love the quote from Peps Mccrea in his book Memorable Teaching: retrieval beats re-exposure and this collaboration gave a good reason to retrieve information from previous lessons. I will also point out here that the Year 4 students had no real trouble in accessing the basics of urban morphology, a fact that motivated my students to do well. Year 8 students, who had no real understanding of the rural-urban fringe, also had no trouble in accessing and understanding the information. This, yet again, underpins the point that sometimes at secondary school we linger for far too long over the basic knowledge.

In terms of practicalities, the following diagram describes the workflow.

Screenshot-2017-04-23-16.40.48.png

The enquiry process framed the sequence of lessons, not so that it was student led, but to ensure we followed the geographical enquiry process which replicates fieldwork processes undertaken at university level. We decided to focus on the rural urban fringe for two main reasons. The first is that both schools are located within this urban zone, although in different settlements. The second is that the need for new houses is frequently in the news as is the funding crisis in schools.

Without going in to too much detail about each stage, and example is followed through below. The first stage was to get Year 11 students to retrieve information around the characteristics of the rural urban fringe. This was done as a starter test, I’m a boing teacher and throw these at students a lot. The material was covered a year before so it was a good exercise in retrieval. The Year 11 students then discussed in groups before two students collated and narrowed down this list by identifying a final list. This bit of leadership gave students with lower social capital the chance to develop the softer skills of reasoning and compromising.

Once the list winged its way to the Year 4 group, they looked at their own location and decided if their own school was in the rural urban fringe. This work was sent to my Year 8 students (we swapped the real artefacts as there is nothing like getting a letter or other work and being able to hold it in your hands) for feedback. Year 10 students, who had looked at the need for housing in the UK and possible solutions in September, then created a scenario in which the primary school field was needed for extra housing.

Throughout the project, a number of tools were used and the end point was a geocache filled with the Year 4’s writing. Go and find it if you are local to the area! The feedback from the public has been excellent so far, and gives the children a real audience as well as providing some feedback for the teachers!

Other tools we used included:

 

The collaboration was successful and there are already plans to extend it further. The main reasons for this are as follows:

Of course, there were some barriers to overcome and the final outcome wasn’t was we desired as I no longer work at the secondary school, however the secondary school students benefitted by retrieving information and having to communicate it concisely. Their motivation also improved. The Year 4 students has daily writing and improved.

The main thing is to get out there, make contact and realise that the work going on in primary schools really is rather good. Ideas in the pub often lead to great learning.