LPoetry for the Totally Terrified

POETRY FOR THE TOTALLY TERRIFIED

What were your experiences of learning poetry at school?

I don’t know about you but my experience of the dreaded poetry lesson at school was always a rather torturous affair. My memories are rather clouded nowadays but I distinctively remember the fear and humiliation of not being able to conjure up words quickly enough to appease my teacher.

I didn’t have the ability (at the time) to randomly pull from my brain – long, flowing prose like that of my very gifted peers. I definitely had the ideas but I didn’t have the ability to express myself. I therefore fell into the myth that poetry (like Shakespeare) was only for the posh or clever kids – of which I may add – I was neither!

There were a number of poets we learned about in school; all of them had very different and distinctive styles and approaches to poetry. What I did observe was that 99.9% of them were either – male; white or dead!

I remember the excitement of reading Spike Milligan for the first time. Spike was – dare I say it? Funny! It wasn’t until I got into my early thirties that I found such gems as:

Nick Toczek – The Dragon Who Ate Our School
Roger McGough – Mafia Cats
Michael Rosen – Chocolate Cake
Celia Warren – Chimpanzees in Dungarees
Benjamin Zephaniah – Pencil Me In

There are hundreds more I could mention consequently they taught me:

You could write a poem on any subject
The poem could be any length
It didn’t matter if it rhymed or not
The most important part being; that if the poem made you happy (as the author) well that was the main thing.

When encouraging children to learn poetry you only need to keep these four basic principles in mind. It allows freedom and encourages their creative to flow.

Another great tool for writing poetry is the use of Personification – ask the children
“What do the first six letters of personification spell?” ‘PERSON’
They love the idea of making inanimate items come to life; in others words giving non-living things ‘person-like’ qualities.

This does come with a health warning though! If personification is taught using the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century models it will invariably turn kids off! You know the sort of thing I’m talking about; where personification becomes entwined with simile and metaphor:

“Trees were dancing with the wind.”
“The cruel Easterly wind roared like a lion.”
“The Sun threw down his majestic rays of golden sunshine.”
To make it more fun and exciting use everyday examples.
If all the items of clothing in your wardrobe had a debate which one has the best job? The worst job? Think about a cake shop – who are the toffs? Which items are the down and outs. I’ll share some more examples and ideas in my next blog.

Sticking with the clothing theme my class thought a silk tie would have the best job as it is worn on special occasions and is on full view for all to see. Where as the title of the worst job goes to the pants (for obvious reasons) see the two examples below:

Personify the Tie
Pete the Dancing Pants.

I hope you enjoy them.

Cheers Lee & David (The Thought Weavers)

PERSONIFY THE TIE

“Oh my!” Sighed the tie,
suspended from the collar white.
“All alone, no friends have I,
to sit and chat with through the night.”

Then a voice came from beneath,
Twas the yellow polka dot handkerchief.
“I wish I were you instead of me,
you are on full view for all to see.”

“You are lofty like the rocket –
I am crumpled and stuffed in pocket.
You are bought as a forget-me-not,
I am cold, damp and
full of SNOT!”

David Anderson – ©02.11.05

PETE THE DANCING PANTS

Peter Pants began to dance
around the bedroom floor;
the washing basket all looked on
and the clothes they yelled for more.

Fifi French the Flirty shirt,
Whispered “Peter I love you thing.”
Vin the Vest was dead impressed.
and he was completely made of string?

Peter spun and ducked and dived
Then flew backwards in mid-air.
Ian tie said “I’ll have some o’ that”
and slithered from the chair.

Jim and Jock the tartan socks,
began to Rock and Roll.
But Jock the Sock says
“We’ll have to stop – I think we’ve got a hole!”

The Sponge and the Flannel did the ‘Cha, Cha Cha’
The Hand Towel the Boogaloo.
Pete gave a wink to the lady in pink
And said “Madam, how do you do?”

Pretty soon the party parted –
In walked a Super-star.
She was white, she was lacy and rather racy
Her name was Barbara Bra.

Barbara sauntered up to Peter
And grabbed him by his ‘Y’
She kissed his cheek, his knees went weak
Then he began to cry.

“Oh Barbara, not again –
this is getting beyond a joke.
I don’t want to dance – I’m an old pair o’ pants
and I think my elastic’s broke.”

David Anderson- © 09.12.05 (8)

Fantastic website if you are stuck for rhymes
http://www.rhymezone.com/

Brilliant YouTube clip demonstrating the rhyming patterns within an Eminem song:  https://youtu.be/ooOL4T-BAg0

Fantastic performance of ‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michal Rosen, demonstrating what one can do with poetry: https://youtu.be/7BxQLITdOOc

The Mini-Plenary – Friend or Foe?

It wasn’t until a couple of years into my teaching career that I’d heard of a ‘mini-plenary.’ According to the local authority my lessons should have one. When I asked what that might ‘look like’ in the classroom I was given a garbled response about checking progress half way through the lesson.

“But what if I know that the children are doing just fine – why would I want to stop them?” I asked. The reply was short and sweet and straight to the point; “Because Ofsted want them!”

The ‘mini-plenary’ is very en-vogue at the moment, it’s a bit of an educational buzz-word (phrase) and I can’t remember the last time I made a lesson observation and didn’t see one (Or at least an attempt at one)

The problem with ‘Buzz-words’ in education is that they become so familiar to practitioners that they lose their meaning. They become the Boweneque “super, smashing, great,” feature of the educational world; said so many times the meaning is lost.

Getting back to ‘Mini-Plenaries’ then; they can be very useful. It is however, important to remember the purpose of a ‘Mini-Plenary’ is to:

 

  1.   Enhance the assessment of the teacher; ensuring the learning is meeting the needs of the learners
  2. Give the learners the opportunity to ask “How am I getting on?”
  3. Challenge the thinking of the learners.
  4.  Assist learners in target setting.
  5. Address whole class patterns of misunderstanding 

 

Too often Mini-Plenaries are for show; little thought is given to their timings, they become a show and tell session with little evaluative significance and are not intellectually demanding. Even worse, they become a trick to ‘show progress’ to an inspector every ten minutes; if we believe that pupils make progress this often and at this rate then we’re either exceptionally gifted educators or deluded.

Assessment for learning during the lesson should be ongoing; it doesn’t necessarily need a whole ‘slot’ with a ‘wizzy’ name to be useful. Assessment takes place at every stage in the lesson, whether it is with one pupil, a group or the whole class.

 

Effective Mini-Plenaries

The best Mini-Plenaries (for want of a better phrase) are intellectually demanding;  ask challenging questions of the pupils and ensure that when the learners get back to their task, they apply their new skills and understanding with greater authority and confidence.

 

 Ideas for the classroom:

  1. ‘Plenary’ questions display – great prompts for the teacher. The students will know they will be expected to respond to them as some point in the lesson – raising expectations.
  2.  Pupil led Mini-plenary – put the ‘Plenary’ questions on to key rings/cards with a ‘group’ leader who will then guide the discussion on each table.
  3. Review the success criteria – Are the prompts effective? How could we make them better?
  4. Peer assessment – students to pick one aspect of the success criteria for their partners/peers to work on.
  5. True or false statements related to the learning. Ask the pupils to move to a specified area of the classroom based on their response. Demand reasoning here!!

Mini-Plenaries are not a foe; the phrase is just over used (We suspect due to Ofsted ‘game’ playing) All of the above ideas should be part of learners’ experience in class, they don’t need a label; reflection is part of the learning process. Ultimately ‘Mini-Plenaries’ are for the benefit of the pupils, not just another box to tick on an observation form.

 

The Thought-Weavers

Preparing for Ofsted 2013

Last year I gave a presentation at the education show entitled ‘Preparing for Ofsted.’ I sifted through lots of Ofsted reports, founds patterns of ‘behaviours’ and looked for things inspectors seemed to be consistently asking for. I then created a slide show based on my findings.

In February 2013, Ofsted visited my school. As a result I’ve recently updated the slide show and below is the new updated version. I hope it will help you when your visit is due.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson/preparing-for-ofsted-2013-v2&#8243; title=”Preparing for ofsted! 2013 v2″ target=”_blank”>Preparing for ofsted! 2013 v2</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson&#8221; target=”_blank”>paceanderson</a></strong> </div>

The Though_Weavers

The Ofsted Effect

I visit many schools and talk to hundreds of professionals all of the time. Never far from the conversation is Ofsted. Ofsted worry schools to the point that the whole ethos is to please Ofsted. This is wrong because a school’s ethos should be built around its pupils.

I was listening to Mick Waters just the other week and he talked about ‘Game Theory;’ the idea that organisations adjust their practices because of the coercion of others. He gave the example of the railways. Since privatisation, the government has set train operating companies punctuality targets, in response to this the timetables have been adjusted to allow for more ‘slippage;’ the outcome is simple, journey times are longer but targets are met. A classic case of:

“Hitting the target but missing the point”

Schools are in danger of doing precisely this! The Ofsted game has led to some dubious practices; below are just a few that come to mind:

The learning objective must be shared.

We’re not saying it should never be shared, but for every lesson? Surely great learning is great learning and pupils will know this! We shouldn’t forget that learning is never ‘objective!’ It’s a personal process, it belongs to individuals and groups; it is therefore subjective!

The mini-plenary.

Of course great learners need time to reflect, to think about how it might be used; a chance to ponder. However, I heard a story the other day of a class given just 1m 40s before the first mini-plenary was delivered. Pupils need time to question, discuss and just to get on with learning; they don’t need the teacher stopping them every five minutes to check progress.

The end of curiosity.

I’ve seen too many lessons in the past 5 years where the learning outcome is measured in levels. The message is clear; “no need to be curious or inquisitive, I’ve given you the outcome using an arbitrary numerical level and that’s where we’re all heading.” What happened to wonder? Wondering what the outcome might be, the chance to play, to experiment and take risks. I asked a learner in July what he needed to do to get better at maths and he replied “Get a level 5.” Earlier this year I asked a girl what she was learning in English and she replied “AF5” – she could tell I was bemused. I then asked her why and she replied “to get a level 4.” Needless to say writing for pleasure is not one of her pastimes!

Tick Box Teaching

The arrival of the ‘lesson observation grids’ has done great damage to teaching. Instead of teachers, the danger is we become technicians; just ticking the boxes as we go along and ticking as many boxes as possible when an observer is in. Of course there should be guidance, hints and tips, strategies shared and practice observed but when you’ve seen practitioners shower praise like confetti, include a dozen mini plenaries and share enough differentiated learning outcomes for the entire population you know it’s ‘Tick box Teaching.’

Teaching to the tests.

Ofsted predominantly measure a school by their ‘standards.’ Some argue this is not the case, but I’ve yet to come across a school with 100% level 4s at KS2 who’ve been put into special measures. So along comes the ‘SPaG’ test and hey presto, grammar lessons are back on the menu, the ‘how many pieces of punctuation can you fit in a sentence’ game is played and spelling tests, lots of spelling tests! Some argue that children should have this type of experience, but if they felt so strongly why weren’t they doing it last year?

If we continue down this ‘Game,’ education will lose its heart, writing will be a technical experience marked with levels, learning will become boxes to tick and teachers will become robots who simply deliver the packages of contents…And pupils…I fear for them…

So please, follow your philosophy, don’t be compliant and ensure the children in your class/school enjoy an education fit for their futures.

The Thought Weavers

Preparing for Ofsted!

Last year I gave a presentation at the education show entitled ‘Preparing for Ofsted.’ I sifted through lots of Ofsted reports, founds patterns of ‘behaviours’ and looked for things inspectors seemed to be consistently asking for and produced a slide show based on my findings.

In February 2013, Ofsted paid my school a visit. As a result I’ve recently updated the slide show and below is the new updated version. I hope it will help you when your visit is due!

Preparing for Ofsted! 2013

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_12069324″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson/preparing-for-ofsted-nec-2012&#8243; title=”Preparing for ofsted! nec 2012″ target=”_blank”>Preparing for ofsted! nec 2012</a></strong>

<div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint&#8221; target=”_blank”>PowerPoint</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson&#8221; target=”_blank”>paceanderson</a> </div> </div>

Lee of the ‘Thought Weavers.’

What Kind Of Restaurant Is Your Classroom?

Myself and David (AKA the Thought Weavers) love to play around with analogies, sometimes they help us get a point across and at other times people look back at us with glazed eyes. However, we really feel this one works and will hopefully help you think about your practice.

So here goes.

We think classrooms are like (or perhaps even should be like) a good restaurant. However, this is not always the case, sometimes they are more ‘fast food’ than ‘gourmet’

Let me explain some of the classic features of a ‘fast-food’ model of the classroom:

  • Pupils walk in with no-one to greet them
  • Adults talk really quickly; they’re impatient and want answers quickly.
  • The menu is always the same.
  • A diet of uninspiring food learning is supplied daily. (it does however hit all of the APP outcomes)
  • Pupils will never remember their favourite or lesson when they’re older
  • Standards are high because the criteria for judging them is so narrow. The ‘fast-food’ restaurant makes and healthy profit and the classroom produces high ‘standards’
  • The tables and chairs never move.
  • All posters and displays are professionally made by adults.
  • Differentiation is made by the words ‘small,’ ‘regular’ or ‘large,’ or in classroom speak; ‘poor,’ ‘average’ or ‘bright.’ (Although occasionally ‘G&T is on the menu)
  • Sometimes special menus/promotions are created, in schools these are known as ‘theme days,’ this is the only time when the menu is slightly more interesting.
  • Feedback is standardised and irrelevant. In the classroom this might be ‘Good Work’ or ‘Well Done’
  • No tips are given; the children will never go the extra mile.
  • Customers can never change the menu and ask for something a little different; in the classroom children get what they’re given.
  • There is no overt way of expressing pleasure or disappointment at the service provided.

On the other hand, a gourmet restaurant (or perhaps country pub!) model for the classroom might read as follows:

  • A friendly smile when you walk in.
  • Small talk at the table with staff.
  • The menu changes regularly and there are lots of daily specials
  • The meals (learning) are well deigned by experts who truly know what they are doing.
  • Great memories are created by the quality of service and friendly atmosphere.
  • Relationships with all adults and children are positive.
  • ‘Difficult’ customers are treated with dignity and respect
  • Standards are exceptionally high, because of the attention to detail at every step of the process.
  • If something special is required or someone wants to deviate from the menu it is celebrated and explored
  • Differentiation is the choice of the customer/pupils; there is a wide variety of activities/meals set out in a variety of ways.
  • Feedback is personalised and unscripted, it feels natural but authoritative.
  • Plenty of tips! Children bring in masses of things from home because they’ve been inspired in school.
  • Pupils can personalise the menus, giving feedback to the lead adult about their performance.
  • Pupils are encouraged to think about their decisions; they have time to evaluate the menu before making a decision

And so on…

Let’s make it clear. Classrooms are not restaurants and certainly shouldn’t be run as a business; pupils are not our customers, they are learners and we should be proud to facilitate their progress.

But, we feel the comparisons can be made. We believe that too often, the standards agenda pushes schools into a ‘fast-food’ model of education. Children deserve better! Whilst a ‘Gourmet’ classroom means hard work, it does mean that the children are the most important people and they will remember their experiences.

So how do you make your classroom ‘Gourmet?’

The Thought Weavers

How does the Government support education? mmmmm…

Michael Gove often talks about leaving the running of schools to the professionals. We agree!

Below are headlines from the BBC website over the last few months. We suggest what Gove actually says and what he actually does are two different things!

‘Schools minister cracks down on league table incentives’

‘Ofsted plans to scrap ‘satisfactory’ label for schools’

‘Poor teachers face tougher system under shake-up’

‘New Ofsted chief takes aim at incapable teachers’

‘Third of schools in Wales not good enough, says Estyn’

‘Labour ‘would have cut school building scheme’

‘Ofsted head to tackle coasting and incompetent teachers’

‘Schools in England will face no-notice inspections’

‘Ofsted inspections to scrutinise teaching quality’

‘Michael Gove queries schools’ Ofsted ratings’

‘Education Bill outlines shake-up for England’s schools’

 

The great thing is that teachers are breathtakingly resilient! We are the eternal optimists! We get on with our jobs despite the headlines above! This is what makes teachers great!

The Thought Weavers