On Friday I had the second meeting with the company we have decided to purchase our iPads from – Jigsaw24. Three hours of productive discussions – both exciting and scary in equal measure as the reality of what I have taken on starts to hit home.

It is worth saying here that are also part of Jigsaw24’s e7 program – a free trial of 40 ipads put into a school for a full (long) term. There are terms and conditions – you can read more about this program here. However, having decided during the course of last term we wanted to trial a 1:1, this for us is less about the hardware and more making the most of the free support and advice. We will be able to purchase the actual 40 we have on loan at the end of the trial which is great news. So far I am impressed.

The objectives for yesterdays meeting were to finalise the order, map out the deployment plan and decide on the set up procedure of the iPads. As we progressed through the discussions it became clearer that we had three different mini-projects each requiring a slightly different deployment solution. I have outlined these below;

Staff iPads – x19
18 x Wifi
1 x 3G to be used as a ‘floating’ device, taken on school trips etc
The primary aim of these is as a staff tool to give staff the opportunity to familarise themselves with the device, engage and use it regularly in the classroom, learning from the the staff using them on the 1:1 program and being able to practice using the additional class sets.
There will be some specific things (register, LP and some assessment/evidence data we also want them to collect using the device – but more about that later).
I am giving staff the ownership of these, it will be their responsibility to set up, charge, and sync these devices. A list of required apps will be given along with an ITunes gift voucher to purchase paid apps with. Gifting will be used to push out additional apps. Support will be offered where necessary.
The primary purpose of this was I really want the staff to engage with the device, this deployment option enables them to retain ownership for any apps they purchase as well as transfer any existing apps they own onto their school device. We all learn from a transference of information and I want my staff to be in a position to find and try out additional things that work and share it back in rather than me be the only one pushing out suggestions.

Class Devices x 48
48 x Wifi iPad2’s
(Pockets of 8 with a charge trolley in each year group – R-Y6)
The purpose of 8 is so they can be used for a Guided Reading group or paired with another year groups set to have one between two.
These will be set up on a more manual basis using two iTunes accounts, a primary credit card account which gifts multiple licences to the account linked to the devices. Syncing, updating and pushing out of new apps will be done via the Cloud. As these are more generic devices, movement of work to and from devices will be done via Dropbox and device email.

1:1 Trial
70 x 1:1 iPad2’s
Each child in Year 4 will have their ‘own’ device funded by the school. These will stay in school until half term and following parental meetings, training and agreements in place they will go home for the rest of the year. This has implications for charging, I do not want to spend


Well two days into the holidays so far and I have enjoyed a couple of days of meetings with interesting and inspirational people. It has been a good way to make the transition from the circle of teaching, marking and planning to the other things I want to do these holidays. I always thought my days as a graphic designer and years in educational publishing would eventually combine with my teaching experience to give an unique insight into both sides of the fence and this is starting to come to fruition. I do think it combines all my interests well and I am starting to realise I do have some valuable skills and thoughts to offer.

So now the real work begins.

After months of researching, deliberating and costing we are embarking on a 1:1 ipad trial in September. This is both exciting and scary. I currently have several ipads, imacs and 15 ipods in my classroom and I know how time consuming these can be to keep maintained and up to date. The thought of the responsibility of dealing with an excess of 150 frightens me somewhat! All our Year 4’s (70) will receive an iPad, there will be other pockets in every year group throughout the school for class and SEN use and every teaching staff member will get one. Apple TV is being placed strategically throughout the school, along with some new smartboards and electrics to go with it! As much as the infrastructure changes I am nervous and concerned at how our teaching will need to change. There seems to be few guidelines out there for cooperative facilitation with mobile devices, especially in primary schools that I feel this is going to be a bit of an experimental year. One where iPads will be used alongside some traditional methods – I do not want my attainment to suffer through shiny distractions. So I’m going to blog my journey – hopefully it won’t be too much of a roller coaster ride.

In addition to setting up the iPads, I have changed ICT maintenance support suppliers, finally choosing a small but dedicated company called Infratek. I needed a company who could support our current pc based network and infrastructure and proactively and knowledgeably support our burgeoning Apple arm. So they need to spend a couple of days at school, hopefully sorting out our cabling (see below), servers, new active directories, backup systems, and our independent web filtering. I have moved away from LA broadband and we should be getting at least 40mb on a contained line rather than the current 2mb!

On top of all of those changes comes a new website and learning platform. After much deliberation individually and with local partner schools, we are the first of our partnership to go with e-schools. It looks like a good all round package, and finally sold itself to us on the basis of their commitment to working on mobile devices. We are going to be their flagship iPad school, I hope we do them proud. Unfortunately I still need to populate the website to meet the new government guidelines – no small job in itself.

With all of the above changes I am running a staff inset day on the 4 September, I’m trying to work out the best way to not overwhelm a predominantly technophobic staff and leave them with tools that they can go back and refer to independently afterwards.

If all of that was not enough – I have my work with the NHA to do, newsletters to produce and some exciting publishing opportunities which may open up. I’m also preparing for some formal research into iPads and attainment, it’s been a while since I did my doctoral research, but I’m looking forward to doing that in partnership with some other like-minded people and being able to add some empirical research to the countless notes of anecdotal evidence out there.

And last but not least my new Handwriting Apps will be completed and released. This is exciting and has been almost another full time job on top of the teaching for the last 4 months. However most of it is now with the developers and I just need to produce a website, some videos and some marketing to go with it.

So a busy busman’s holiday!


Following Rethinking ICT I mulled for a while and then went back to the members of the Oxford ICT Advisory Group, of which I am a member, with a proposal. Today we met to thrash out the initial bones of a simple but useable interim ICT curriculum. A progressive skeleton on which schools and teachers can layer as much or little to match the levels of expertise and kit in their own schools.

The team is small, but full of like-minded enthusiastic and inspirational people and we had an interesting and productive day. It is certainly a challenge akin to opening a can of worms. In a life where much of my face to face discussions are done with children and my adult discussions are done virtually, it was really nice to reverse the experience!

So a plan is in place for the summer – combined with massive ICT changes in my own school, it is going to be a busy 6 weeks!

Some great debates at RethinkingICT today. Certainly some thought provoking presentations. My head certainly hurt by the end of it, and in many ways I wasn’t that much clearer about where we should be going or even want to be going with ICT (if that’s what it remains to be called!). So many ideas, so many differing views, all at least seemingly held together by the desire of best practice glue with atoms of children’s best interests interwoven. But where does one go from here?

It’s all very well to say go forth, share and shout. But about what? A good lesson? A good series of lessons? An exciting product, software, web 2.0 tool I’ve found? Who decides what ‘good’ is? Where is the criteria by which that should be judged? I’m not really a shouter. I’m not a hoarder or particularly precious about what I do either. I love collaborative practice. But I also want some direction. I want to know that my practice is based on a sound core set of values/skills/competences. I want to be able to put my learners on a progressive pathway which includes some signposts for both of us to measure ourselves against.

I didn’t sense that really came out today.

The best piece of clarity I had was amongst the bagels in Waitrose afterwards, where I met a fellow lurking delegate. An English teacher (not ICT) whose background includes a far stronger base of experience than mine. She reflected how during the day she had observed the hammering out of similar ideas which the English profession have been doing for years.

As we berate the standard of ICT being taught by a potentially fabulous Maths teacher, they cry in frustration at how a brilliant Science teacher doesn’t bother to point out or correct incorrect punctuation. As we grapple with what the different parts of ICT should be called, contain and how they should be best taught – similar conversations have been had by the English specialists.

English (or Literacy) is divided into parts – all integral to a successful whole – grammar, handwriting, various genres of writing, speaking and listening, and critical analysis skills. We teach these elements but put our own stamp on it, use stimuli that enthuse and engage the learners in our own classes, use the core skills in a progressive manner to underpin the more exciting layers we put on top. Surely the same applies to any renewed ICT programme? I don’t want a prescriptive off-the-shelf solution (I know no-one was suggesting that) but I do want some sort of pedagogically sound framework on which to hang my personalised teaching and learning.

As a new ICT Coordinator, with a near-nonexistent curriculum and teachers still holding on to teaching powerpoint for grim death – what can I take away from today and use immediately? @ShelliBB reminded me of the importance of giving the children ownership for their digital future and I will relook at my Digital Leader program with renewed vigor, @mrlockyer engagingly reminded us that we all live in a REAL world – analogue is a present that should be enjoyed now and not solely through a digital lense. And @TheHeadsOffice showed me that at the heart of great change is often a simple idea that works – and I will even in the dying days of this academic year try and get some pupils engaged with the 100 word Challenge.

As for some sort of framework, the closest I saw today to something that fits the purpose for our school is the Digital Studies model (http://digitalstudieswiki.pbworks.com/w/page/49888869/Welcome) courtesy of @sharland, @infernaldepart and @teachesict, but it’s something I need to look into in more detail. I will also look through NAACE, Ian Addison’s (http://www.ictplanning.co.uk/) and Matt Lovegrove’s (http://www.mrlovegrove.net/category/resources/) planning ideas – and no doubt spend the summer armed with a wall and post-it notes.

I do know that any framework at the core of the curriculum I will use needs to be adaptable to the environment into which it is placed, whether that be a highly motivated digitally supportive school, or a more traditional and electronically challenged one. It needs to be simple and deliverable in bite-sized chunks so as not to overwhelm the tech-reluctant teacher. Strong enough to be bulked out and fluid enough to adapt with changing technology.

I’m not lazy by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t feel qualified to create from scratch, or even confident enough propose something so key to far more experienced practitioners. However I am more than happy to play my part, but I would prefer that to be adding to the muscle that holds the skeleton up rather than rebuilding the actual skeleton. Think if it more like the rehabilitating physiotherapist tailoring the exercises to the individual rather than the surgeon rebuilding a shattered body.

Too much to ask then – for some other intelligent bods, more experienced me, to design some pedagogically sound coat hooks on which I can help learners hang wizard cloaks (magic ones – but not made solely of the dust that comes out of the back of ipads!)???


Big thanks to Louisa Farrow, Head of English and Director of Studies at Winchester House for the interesting chat.
Oh and to Chris Leach for organising a brilliant event.


I am prompted to write as a result of watching twitter discussions about Gove’s announcement relating to the new curriculum, more specifically the intention to include more grammar in the teaching of literacy. The purpose isn’t to debate about what is wrong or right about it (although I do have some views) but what it prompted me to shake the cobwebs off this blog was to reflect on how my teaching has changed over the last couple of years, notably my literacy teaching.

When we learn to drive our parents did not just throw us the keys at our 18 year old selves (or 15 in NZ as it was then) and say ‘get on with it’, nor did they breeze over the basics and rely on us to teach ourselves the rest. As competent drivers we aim for automaticity – to use pedals, gears, indicators, move forward, backward, park – all fluently without having to detract our concentration by over focusing on one as we negotiate our journeys. But in order to get to that stage we needed to learn how to use each element, understand how each is linked, practice maneuvering and then transfer those skills into different situations and then practice even more until it feel natural. Understanding how writing ‘works’ feels no different.

Fundamentally at the beginning of this academic year I decided that I needed to be a driving instructor – I know how to drive (have yet to actually tackle the task with my still-15 year old daughter), but I also know how knowing the basics well can create a good end result. My basics were – to know my class (successful teaching is based on building good relationships – another blog post I think), use rigorous AfL (to identify the gaps), provide effective feedback and take a ‘get the foundations’ right approach. Then once these things were comfortably in place we could start to tackle driving down some more exciting scenarios. My end result was an expectation that children could use the elements and skills independently to create exciting and readable texts

We teach with a full creative curriculum approach, re-jigging some topics around and adding new ones. This year meant we also needed to re-look at the literacy units we were going to cover. Last year we sped through units, gratuitously at times and embarrassing to admit – I knowI left a trail of misunderstanding in the wake. It was time to slow down, take a more flexible approach and focus on getting things right before moving on. Added to that was both our whole school focus on grammar and sentence construction and a big push on phonics, a result of gaps found in whole school literacy assessments.

Admittedly I started with what I liked teaching (passion is infectious) ensuring that we covered the 3 different areas (fiction, non-fiction and poetry), I also took into account of the skills associated with each and prioritised on what would be ‘useful’ to my young learners on their life journey (eg: letter writing, being critically literate digitally) then I ‘matched’ these to topics I knew we were going to cover eg: Writing Playscripts in the term we did our production – purpose to write the final scene = stunning end result that the children created .

I have taken a structured approach to grammar, single focus but differentiating up to four ways and pushing on those who require it. It has not been a new focus per week, we’ve moved on when ready. I’ve dragged resources from where I can, surprisingly a lot of old ‘schemes’ the school had gathering dust (which I think I probably worked on in a publishing life) have been useful. Not to follow religiously, but as a starting point for activities. We revisit what we have learnt frequently, cross-curricularly and in Guided Reading (see below). My class can now identify different types of language, and give examples of each, last year they couldn’t. If possible, once a week I try to ensure a cross-curricular learning objective is grammar based.

Looking at the spelling in my class, I took a brave jump backwards and we went back to Phase 4 Letters and Sounds. Speaking of driving, this was for me a bit like suddenly being asked to drive an articulated truck! I have never taught KS1 – my phonics knowledge was limited to say the least. 6 months later (one focused lesson per week, linked to spelling, plus extra activities throughout) – we are all the better for it. My class use pure sounds for independently segmenting new words, in both writing and spelling, and are more accurate as a result. Revisiting the basics and building back up with alternative spellings (my goodness – HOW complicated is the English language!) has given them a stronger knowledge base from which to draw upon, understanding how these things fit together has enabled great peer tuition as I hear more able pupils asking questions of less able as they help them spell tricky words.

I have tied all my Literacy Units into Guided Reading sessions ensuring that there is a mixture of adult led and independent silent-reading, writing, grammar and phonics activities – all related to the unit, completed each week. This is now a well-oiled carousel activity that the children set our each day. It has been hard to resource at times, as I have wanted the reading materials to cover both specific AFs as well as link to the Literacy Unit. Invariably I have resorted to extracts, but I think the ability to re-cap features of texts as well as discuss them in more detail in small groups has enabled all children to consolidate a variety of literacy skills and has been invaluable to all. With 33 children in my class it has helped assess and scoop up misconceptions where necessary and almost feels like I have doubled my literacy time. All the activities I have used (mixture of digital and traditional resources) is probably worth another post sometime.

My younger brother taught me to drive, but then of course my parents insisted that I practiced by going out with them as well. This year I have re-jigged my use of my TA, especially in literacy. I have used her in a far more rotational capacity, predominantly supporting an identified set of children with whom extra time and focus will yield more results (cynically closing the gap to achieve my pay-related PM target results). The knock on effect is that my SEN children have made more progress, I would assume due to a number of factors – from being in class more, listening to good examples, working in mixed ability pairs and being forced by circumstances to work more independently, not to mention having high expectations set by me. End result is a win-win all around.

Lastly, setting personal targets is probably the final key point that has focused children’s writing. To date, I have set these myself as a result of identifying gaps or next steps, although children self check and identify evidence themselves, highlighting and allowing me to ‘sign off’ (or not!). However I think the next step for all of us is to move children towards identifying and setting these themselves.

To culminate, our latest topic – A Diamond Queen – focused on each of the decades and gave us an opportunity to recap such a variety of literacy skills. As we had visitors in each week, the children have written letters, both to ask questions and thank them, they have written scripts for telephone and latterly skype conversations as well as 70s TV programmes, written newspaper reports (1953 coronation), created information texts on particular decades and written Jubilee Poems. It has been thrilling to see them love the historical elements of the topic and be able to reuse the skills they have been taught throughout the year.

The effort of refocusing on the basics and then giving children relevant contexts to apply them has yielded results. We alternate Big Writes with Independent Assessed Writing in a book which goes through the school with the child, evidence so far this year is showing minimum of 4pts for almost all children, with some exceptional blinders! One of my SENs has made 8pts. More than levels – all understand the mechanics of the units we have covered so far, most could tell you what they need to do to improve their writing, and everyone has found a form of literacy throughout the year at which they have excelled.

So to reflect – I’ve probably done what most far more experienced teachers have been doing for years. A tweet by @LouiW summed it up for me today. “Surely it’s like everything? Take the best, use in your own way?” I guess I’ve created my own style of driving tuition based on a view of what a good end result looks like and by providing a good grounding of the basics along the way. So far it seems to have worked.

I know I can still improve – I’ve already got a few ideas up my sleeve for next year!

Now I just need to learn to change my own flat tyres without ringing the AA!


In Literacy we are focusing on how writers create tension in their writing. Our main stimulus is a Chinese story written in poetry form to link in with our topic, but on the success of the recent Wii lesson, I wanted to use Myst to build on the idea of magpie-ing words and phrases to use in writing. I then wanted to help children apply these to a structured format to have a better understanding of how using paragraphs can organise their writing.

I used a section of Myst V I have used before for setting descriptions, but the fact it starts in a room, then goes down a corridor before you are faced with glowing bubble form, linked well with the idea of a trapped/escape/surprise structure. So the focus was to build tension with a descriptive setting, before using the corridor to have a fast paced escape and then a sudden surprise/question which had the possibility of moving to a climax.

This week I tried using Mario Kart on the Wii to help my class apply the features of creating tension and a build up in their writing. It was predominantly a Speaking and Listening lesson, but they grasped what I was trying to get them to do really well so I gave them 20 minutes writing time at the end to write 3 short paragraphs including the features we had identified. Some of their work can be found below.

We started by playing a few rounds of the game, practising using the pause button to swap between drivers. They needed to be able to do this efficiently as I was going to be stopping and starting them a lot!. I only used one controller (on purpose) and the 10 minutes or so doing this got the general excitement out of their systems and we could move on to with a little more focus.

We then recapped how writers create tension in their writing, created a list of SC and then applied these to three parts of the Mario game; sitting on the start line, leaving the start line and describing an incident such as a crash. I created a “magpie” sheet for them, with 3 columns

Filed Under (Reflection) by on 23-06-2011 and tagged ,

Today I had a great maths lesson.

It felt good at the time. 30 children all engaged, learning new things, consolidating previously learned concepts and sharing their learning and helping others for an hour – and we then ran over an extra 6 minutes without a fuss! They worked so hard I was proud of them all (and there are some characters – it’s a lower set Year 4 maths class!)

So what made it successful? – on reflection it wasn’t the lesson itself (that wasn’t particularly innovative or exciting) but the realisation that the format gave me a toe-dip into something I had regarded as the holy grail of teaching this year – was!

All year I have been struggling to capture assessment data on my maths class without feeling the need to formally assess them (we do APP* for every child and by assessment I also mean collecting the evidence for this). Don’t get me wrong – I use AFL daily, my marking is logged against objectives, I can look through my mark book and quickly assess who has ‘got’ something and who hasn’t, this marking informs my planning and I’m lucky that I have a small amount of ‘extra’ TA time that I use to either pre-teach or ‘scoop’ up misconceptions in small groups.

But something has constantly bothered me about how my AFL mark book relates to my APP file and whether the former, and even the latter really give a true representation of what children are independently capable of. My colour-coded AFL marks are mostly a result of taught lessons, supported group work and in my view never a pure example of independent understanding. I often do not teach a concept for more than a week before moving on, opportunities for revisiting them in a already crowded timetable – are fewer. So finding the opportunities to secure three examples of independent evidence to ‘highlight’ an AF has felt near on impossible.

So for me, my lesson today gave me a format whereby I was able to work with every child in the class, informally collect evidence relating to 6 different maths concepts/objectives and enable children to enjoy and learn from the experience was somewhat of a eureka moment!

The format. A carousel of 6 different activities. Two adult-led – one teaching a new concept and one adult supporting a more ‘tricky’ activity. Mixed ability groups, with a child ‘maths leader’ in each that would offer help in independent activities if required. 8 minutes on each activity – a mixture of hands-on tasks and basic concepts. All bar one, with a recorded element.

The positives. Engaged children showing responsibility for their own, and others, learning. Children moving on in their learning, but also consolidating concepts they already know. Moving from activity to activity and ‘collecting’ their own evidence kept children focused. The opportunity for me as a teacher (and also my TA – who commented afterwards that they had loved the lesson) to work with every child within a single lesson was brilliant.

How would I adapt? From my collection of recorded sheets (which I haven’t marked and won’t – but have recorded on a single sheet against the objective for each task) I would include a standard format for self-assessment on each. I would continue to include a range of activities pitched at different levels, but ensure I include some practice activities that build confidence. The mixed ability groups work well, as I can see how children helping each other reinforced their own understanding, but I may include the occasional session where the activities may enable those of slightly lower ability to be the math leaders. As we set for maths, my team teacher and I could use the format with our own classes, or to enable children who hover on the borderline of both groups to transfer and try working with the other class. Changing the activities would ensure that whilst children may become familiar with the format they won’t get bored with the lesson itself. I have noted that mental calculation is a real weakness in my class

My class have always had a couple of ipod touches, a few macbook pros and an ipad to use on a daily basis but in the last week of term, following a successful bid to Oxfordshire County Council we took delivery of 30 ipod touches.

The children knew they were coming (news received with squeals of delight and anticipation), but their faces when they were delivered in two super large suitcase docking stations and placed at the back of the class, all shiny and inviting – was

Today I spent the morning at another school. I learnt so much just watching experienced teachers and left on such a high! It will be by mission for the rest of this year to visit another school in my NQT time at least every second week.

I watched a year 4 maths lesson and it was great to see how choice could be offered within a fairly structured lesson. By giving them options (two in this case), this passed responsibility back to children for what they were doing, as it was their choice. More incentive to achieve. I have an observed lesson on Tuesday and would love to try it, but think it is something the children will need some experience at before being able to make good choices independently.

I then went into a the classroom of a totally inspirational teacher. A teacher I’d met at a TeachMeet recently. Just the way she interacted with her students was brilliant. I enjoyed being in her lesson! She used the Wii and a safari game to inspire and provide stimulus for a literacy lesson on diary writing. I liked the way she gave the ownership of writing the success criteria to the students via post-it notes. I also liked her mental starter for literacy to improve a sentence – done in the back of the literacy books. Children in the class were engaged and all worked silently and independently to complete the task. The plenary had children identifing WOW sentences in their own work and were offered the opportunity to self assess against SC before handing in.

Even the small things such as seeing how teachers organise their files, discussing projects, plans and lessons that worked and excited the children. I walked away with two great ideas for reading passports and some guided reading cues! And they were just cherries on the icing of having observed some inspired practice.