Saturday, 15 August 2015

6 signs you're a totally 'Basic' teacher just like me!

So…. I've been reading a lot of negative press about being 'Basic' lately and I'm like….that is so me and I don't care one little bit….in fact more than that…. I'm proud to be a 'Basic B*tch'
I adore Clueless and SATC, I use words like 'Totes' and count down the days until a PSL is back on the Starbucks menu and you can bet I'll be Instagramming a picture of it!

I'm not doing any of these things to be anything other than me and I feel that if I didn't do them then I'd be trying to be one of those cool, nonchalant, espresso drinkers who write the memes and blogs about 'Basic B*tches' and that would just be totes fake!

But this got me thinking… is there such a thing as a 'Basic' teacher and am I one? 
The answer to both of these questions is YES and YES!!!! 

Keep reading to see if you're a 'Basic' teacher and if you are- BE PROUD!!!

You post a picture of your latest classroom bulletin board and are secretly excited every time someone likes it- it kind of reaffirms the reason you got into teaching in the first place….to make things pretty! Duh! 

You have a love affair with all things Erin Condren and obsess over which cover to get. Add 'Basic' points if you post a pic of the box once its arrived!

You fill your wish list with about 1000 amazing products in anticipation of the next great TpT sale only to have to sit the night before excruciatingly taking things out of it because you know spending THAT much money would just be ludicrous…wouldn't it?

You have stars in your eyes for the likes of Mr Greg (The Kindergarten Smorgasboard), Aly (Just a Primary Girl) and Meg (A New Box of Crayons) and your little butterflies do a leap every time you see one of them in your 'Scope or 'liking' a tweet of yours. I mean….they are the Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lawrence and Cameron Diaz (only mucho cooler) of the teaching world right?!

You have commented that Pinterest/Periscope/ Blab/IG is the best thing to ever occur in the world of teachers- they should totally earn you CPD credits or something right…I mean, the hours we put into them!!!! 
You turn your nose up at Comic Sans (but in a nice way of course) and can name a KG font from 50 yards!

If you could say YES to at least 3 of these then welcome to the wonderful world of  the 'Basic' teacher!
5 or 6…. we need to Blab right now- let's be blogging besties and totally have each other's backs- you are my kindred spirit! 

No offence is meant with this post- I can say a huge HELL YEAH to EVERY.SINGLE.ONE of the above statements and I am totes serious about the whole blogging bestie thing- email me
I'm a #basicteacher and PROUD!

(All pictures used are my own year2tastic IG ones!) 

Monday, 3 August 2015

Colourful Comprehension Strategy

Hey guys how are you?
So… I just love teaching reading- I love getting to unlock the world for my littlies don't you? 
It's such a privilege!

Guided Reading and Phonics are my jam but I hate watching my little darlings struggle away when it comes to doing a comprehension test.

My children are great at having a discussion about a text- pulling out how the character feels, reading between the lines and making predictions but doing this in a test all on their lonesome…not so great! Anyone else?

I got to thinking about an approach I could use to help bridge the gap from discussion to test and came up with 'Colourful Comprehension'. We love highlighters in our school and by attaching a colour to a key language element it provided a clear mnemonic for the children to use. 

My children are 6 & 7 but I am confident that this is a strategy which will be useful for much older children too! 

The strategy is taught during small group/ guided reading sessions but is easily applied when the children are flying solo.
The first in the series applies the strategy to texts where children have to determine the author's opinion such as in a review or report. 

Step 1
Using examples of report text, discuss the language features most commonly associated with them and make a note. This could take a whole session.

Step 2
Introduce the colours- 
Discuss from the previous step the kinds of language they might consider positive, negative or a modal connective.

Step 3
Share the language charts with the children. You could do Step 2 and 3 in one session or you may prefer to split them up. You could even go so far as splitting each language type up into 3 separate sessions- it is totally flexible so you can go with what your children need. 

Step 4
The next step is to find each type of word or phrase within a report/ opinion text and highlight them in the correct colour. Demonstrate to the children how to scan for those modal connectives so that straight away they are aware if the author has a change of opinion or offers more than one. Once this is done  then you can demonstrate how to tally up the number of positive and negative words which will then provide an indication of the author's voice in the text. 
Included in the pack is a fully modelled colour sheet, a black and white completed sheet, a black and white sheet ready to be completed and a black and white sheet ready to add your own text to.
Step 5
Once all of the highlighting and tallying is done then it is time to write the summary. I do this orally first and then give the children a small, square post-it note so that they have to keep the summary succinct and include only the key points. I guide my children to mention the points raised by the modal connective as this will show that they have understood if there is a mixed or alternative opinion within the text. 
Space is provided on the format to then write the summary but this is an optional step and is not integral to the strategy but is good practise. 

After using this strategy several times or until you feel the children are comfortable with it, give them an opinion text in it's 'real' layout, provide highlighters and let the children apply the strategy to the text. On the first go at a 'real' text my children were fantastic but some did ask 'Is it ok to tally?' because space wasn't explicitly provided for it and this is where a practise on a real text or 2 during a guided session is invaluable before a test situation occurs. 

The pack contains black and white versions of every sheet so that you can choose your own highlighter colours and also be ink-friendly! 

If you think this would be useful in your classroom then please click here to head to my TpT store.
Spellings are American-English within this pack but a UK English version will be available too.

Coming soon…Colourful Comprehension: Fact or Opinion? 

Thanks for stopping by- feel free to leave me a question in the comments...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

All Things Bulletin Boards: The UK Way!

Yay! It's time to link-up with Angie and Ashley
I absolutely adore these 2 lovely ladies! Their friendship and journey has truly inspired me- if you haven't caught one of their periscopes yet then I strongly suggest you do! They have take the whole #2getherwearebetter thing to a totally new level let me tell you! 

So….this month we are coming together to talk about one of my most favourite subjects 'bulletin boards' or 'displays' as we would call them in the UK. Now, I know in the UK there are some guidelines regarding workload which suggest that teachers shouldn't do displays but if you're anything like me then displays are THEE main reasons you became a teacher in the first place!!! 
Just kidding…….no seriously! 

So….the bread and butter of a board is the backing and boarder. 
Both are equally important for pulling your classroom theme together and drawing attention to learning opportunities.

The serious stuff- laying a good foundation!
Most board resources here in the UK are a whole school resource so we don't often have a
big say in the colours and patterns available.
Our paper is stored in a central store and it goes very quickly! We mainly have sheets of display paper which is fine with me as they are easier to put up on your own. 
I get anxious if paper isn't straight, I hate when people cut strips to fit rather than arranging the paper correctly, I hate too many staples and I can't stand when people use too many sheets!! Most boards in my classroom take a combination of 2 or 3 landscape pieces on the top and 4 or 5 portrait pieces at the bottom NO MORE, NO LESS!!! This gives the crispest look to the board without waste or cutting pieces- a minimal overlap of about 2cm is more than enough!!!
Rolls of backing paper? I HATE THEM! They are so hard to put up solo and I always, always get a 'sag'- you know what I mean?
See…I'm a serious board backer!!! I think it comes from years of covering boards in my mother's classrooms. She was trained in the 1960's when they actually gave trainee teachers lessons in this stuff and I suppose it's just stuck!

Framing the master piece- Boarders
Again the boarders tend to be a whole school resource here in the UK and in our school, layering the nice ones up isn't really an option as we don't have loads available and have to be mindful of other teachers and their needs.
I love to use corrugated boarders as they handle easily and seem more hardwearing but they don't often come in fancy designs. I love boarders which add something to the display as well as framing it. I've often made a boarder up of the children's artwork for example we collaged cardboard penguins and used them on our Polar Regions display as the boarder. Once I cut long strips of card and got the children to choose shades of green and splat the card with it to frame a display on frogs. 

The 2 types of boards in my room and lots of other UK classrooms
O.K. so… not every board can be cute some just need to be practical. 
We have the more time consuming and appealing 'Display Boards' and the quick and easy 'Working Walls' in our room. Both are absolutely worth while and valuable. 
Here's the difference…

Display Boards- These are used to display the children's work or information which will be up for a while.They should be engaging and encourage the viewer to look closely. We want the children to feel a sense of pride in their work and environment so putting time and effort into the way we display it should reflect this.

Working Walls- These are the boards the children refer to constantly for their learning. They are not just a background wall paper but should be changed and adjusted to reflect the children's learning and the unit/ topic that week/ term. They don't have to be cute as they are meant to be used not just looked at. That doesn't mean to say that pride shouldn't be taken in them but that they should be user friendly. 
Some of my favourite things!
If you have read any of my previous TGIF posts then you will know that I love to use photo frames and wall paper in my classroom. School can be a daunting place for the children and parents alike so I think using 'home' items around the room brings a sense of the familiar and helps them to relax.

This is one of my all-time favourite displays to share information with parents-
Parents even bring me old rolls of wall paper into class now too! Such an easy way to connect!

I love making the backing of a board a little bit different- I know using fabric is big in the US but not so much here in the UK although I have been known to use some burlap to back a board before!

I love how splatting paint on the paper before backing the board can look-
Sure the kids look cute in their spacesuits but its the paper I'm interested in! Using white splats on black made our space display pop and this year I'm using some of Glitter Meets Glue's sparkly clip art on a colourfully splatted lilac backing paper to make my 'We're a Colourful Class' welcome board stand out!

This simple 'Finger Gym' board used for tracking grip development is simply a strip of brown paper- I'm yet to put the lettering on the burlap- oops!
Wrapping paper makes a great backing provided it doesn't distract from the display content. 

I also don't like to keep my displays to just the boards- I don't have many so I branch out wherever possible!
Washing lines and vertical blinds are brilliant places to peg work for display.

My overall goal with bulletin/display boards is to present either work or information in a creative and interesting way but I believe you have to strike a balance. If the backing or boarder is too fussy then the content of the display can become lost. Our little ones find it hard enough to focus and concentrate at the best of times!

The background and boarder should simply frame and present the work not distract from it.
All jazz and no pizzaz makes a very sad board indeed!

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