Thursday, 2 April 2015

ATL Annual Conference: Uncertainty and Inspiration

It has been quite a while since my last blog post. Teaching and life seems to take over and things slip. But after the events of the last week I felt galvanised into action...

As my Twitter followers would have gathered from the past few days, I have been at my union's annual conference in Liverpool. 

As many of my colleagues and members of the profession will understand, there is a great deal of uncertainty and strain on teachers and those in education at the moment. There's the ever-increasing and unsustainable workload, an inspectorate that is not fit for purpose piling on the pressure, budget restraints on schools, and a record number of teachers leaving. With this overall picture, it is easy to become down-hearted, even down-right depressed by the state of education. 

But I'd like to paint a different picture. When I go to ATL's conference, or meet up with any of my ATL friends, I always leave feeling energised and positive.

The conference centre painted a wall white and allowed us to graffiti on it - Graffiti centred around the #ShapeEducation campaign. Scouring the jottings and doodles showed me that teachers across the UK are feeling the same stresses and strains. I particularly enjoyed some of the creative ways colleagues expressed their views (note the centre picture and dalek!).

It's rare to be able to attend a conference and be able to strike up conversation with virtually anyone you bump into. I love that thorough conference I have met people working in every sector imaginable, including every age phase and conceivable setting. Us teaching folk are a diverse bunch but with a shared passion for the children and young people we teach. Despite the gaps in time between conferences and meetings, when chatting it is as if no time at all has passed.

There have been some incredible speeches and debates over the past few days, including from this year's fantastic president, Mark Baker, and of course ATLs general secretary, Mary Bousted. Both speeches seemed to encapsulate and articulate the precise feeling of everyone in the room. 

One of the highlights for me was the ATL Future fringe event, 'Skills, Creativity, Ingenuity: Empowering Young People For a Changing World'. David Cameron (@realdcameron) spoke on the importance of creativity in schools, how it should be embedded and exploited in every subject. Something I will take away from his presentation is the need for "Wonder". He quoted Dave Harris (@bravehead) and said, "without wonder, there is no hope". Children need the space and opportunity to truly wonder about the world around them. David spoke briefly about having a "room of wonder" with various intriguing objects (e.g. A whale's ear, old typewriters, puzzles, curiosities, tadpoles, to name a few!) in for children to explore, investigate and be inspired by. I love this idea, and will definitely be incorporating this into my classroom/school/teaching wherever I can!

This year was my fifth conference and I sincerely hope there will be many more in the future! Through attending conference and my contributions in the ATL Future Steering Group (now come to an end after 4years) I know I have made some friends for life and met some amazing, inspiring, generous people that will have a lasting impression on me and my teaching. Now to start my new ATL adventures with a more active role in my local branch and the committee. 

When I tell people that I am active in my Union, I know that for some people a certain image of marches, banner-holding and strikes might spring to mind. For me being an active member of a union is about sharing a vision for education, debating issues, supporting colleagues, developing myself as a teacher and give me the time and space to think about what I value and want for the education system that I work in. It is easy to feel trapped in a bubble during term time, being active in my Union has helped me break that bubble and appreciate the wider picture. Conference has shown me that in times of uncertainty, there can be strength in unity and the sharing of ideas and positivity.

To catch up with my Tweets from #ATLconf2015 follow me on Twitter @Abbie_Saxby

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Spicy Challenges - Differentiation

I have introduced a new strategy for differentiation in my teaching. I started by trialling it in maths and it has been a great success!

The children get to choose their own challenges: mild, medium, spicy and the ultimate chili bowl challenge! I started off by gently nudging them in the right direction, but to my surprise my class didn't really need the nudges. It always amazes me how, just by changing the name of a task or the way a task is presented, it can totally change how children take to it... I expected quite a few children to opt for the easier challenge, but they didn't! If anything more children took the trickier challenges. It was lovely to see so many children relishing a challenge! It has given the children a sense of ownership over their learning and they have more of an awareness of their own abilities.

I have now developed he idea further so that as part of the chili bowl challenge extension tasks, children can write their own problems or challenges linked with the learning intention of the lesson and put them into the trays for other children to have a go at!

How do you differentiate? What successes or challenges have you come across?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Pinterest - Classroom Ideas and Inspiration

In less than a week the summer holidays will be over and I'll be back into the whirlwind of teaching once again! I've been trying to get my brain back into "school mode" and I've been in and out of school sorting out my classroom and finding sources of inspiration. I have found some great teaching ideas over on Pinterest. If you haven't explored Pinterest, I urge you to now. Here are my Pinterest pin-boards.

 The best ideas are the simplest, you can pick up these little pots for very little cost. There's always the potential for chaos during a maths activity if everyone in the class needs to be rolling dice, so this is the perfect solution!

This is one of my favourite ideas! In year 3 one of the science topic looks at what plants need to be healthy and this is the perfect and really easy way to illustrate to children exactly what is happening when a plant grows. One of the most interesting stages of a seed germinating is that first moment when the seed sprouts roots and this is ordinarily completely hidden from view. I'm definitely going to try this with my class this year! I also came across a fabulous idea of growing seeds inside lightbulbs that you hang from the window frames in the classroom. 

What a brilliant idea! My sister The Style PA suggested it could be adapted by inserting Kings and Queens. But this idea could be used in many ways. With a variety of book characters inserted, it would be a powerful way of children developing their skills of character description and would be an exciting way of starting a literacy lesson on descriptive language.

 Another brilliant and cost-effective storage solution.

A great way of teaching children about erosion.

Another recycling idea - using Starbucks plastic cups as paint pots.

I think I may have to steal this for my classroom. I currently have words around my clock, but this is a simpler and and more visual aid for telling the time.

Every child works at different speeds and there are inevitably going to be a few children that finish tasks early. This is a great way of having a quick and easy bank of extension tasks that can easily be adapted and added to depending on the context.

 This is a lovely idea for an early morning activity while children are filtering into school, a time filler activity, or as part of phonics sessions.

(for sources follow this link)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

My Classroom!

It's that time again folks... the start of the summer holidays and I've been busy in my classroom preparing it for September. I really like coming in for a few days in the summer holidays when it is quiet and I can have fun making resources and displays. I found the idea for this door display on Pinterest (there are some really inspiring and creative ideas on there, check out my classroom "pinboard").

This is another gem I found on Pinterest initially and hunted down a blank printable version over at Teachernet. After a bit of a struggle getting my class to complete homework consistently last year, I thought I'd use this fun and exciting incentive this year. If a child brings in their homework for the week, they get to roll the dice and move their name around the Homeworkopoly board. They can win stickers, mystery prizes and opportunities to play games. Some of the "stops" on the board have a little challenge the children have to complete in order to win the prize. (I think I might be even more excited than my prospective class about this addition to my classroom!!)

 Learning Partners display and traffic lights

 When children make good contributions to classroom discussion, or work particularly hard, they can get their name on the "Superstar Board" and earn themselve team points.

 Beautiful Presentation reminder

 Cursive alphabet

 You can't quite see from this photo, but I have put numbers on each of the chairs. They have 1-30 on them on a variety of different animals. I am going to use these to build some maths and word problems into everyday classroom routines... e.g. "If your number is in the 3 x table join the line for lunch" etc

 Maths area

 This is my new targets display. The children have their targets on little rockets. Each time they meet their targets they get to move to the next planet and eventually end up on the Sun! My class really will be reaching for the stars! :) I just can't wait to get started... not that I'm willing away my summer holidays of course!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Feather and Black Challenge - Phase 2!

I have been shopping to find complementary pieces for the Feather & Black challenge which you can read about here. Plus, I've added the reveal photo to Facebook, so you can hit 'LIKE' to vote for my room now.

As a reminder, here is the piece of furniture I'm styling up -  Olivia white wooden blanket box

My room is pretty much a blank canvas, but my style is quite feminine and I love having memories and trinkets on display. So when I went shopping, that's where I focused my efforts. I like to get the most for my money and seek out great buys, and that's exactly what I've been doing!

I definitely got a lot for my money and I went for a London theme and subtle colour palette. The small cushions were £12.80, reduced from £16 and the large ones were £20 reduced from £25. The Tea for Two London set was £18 and the 'Home' Scrabble Cubes were £19.50. The little white photo frames were just £4.20 each - all this was from Debenhams. 

The Breakfast in Bed tray was £7.99 from Robert Dyas - an unlikely place for pretty bits. Store Twenty One was where I picked up the Morrocan style lamps at £5.99 each.


Finally, I hit Haydens Home Style, the shop my parents run alongside their carpet business, for the half moon rug £12.99, wicker tea cup planter £8.95,  beach sign £4.95,  small wicker heart £1.75, larger wicker, heart £2.50, Shabby chic heart photo frame £8.95.

The next post will include the final room with all the goodies in place. What do you think so far?

Alternative Wedding Guestbook Ideas

I have been thinking about mine and Danny's guestbook for our wedding and I found some really wonderful ideas in the blogosphere. I love the idea of having a typewriter set up so guests can leave messages and share their wishes for us. I discovered the lovely photo above over at The Boho Wedding Blog and the photo below at Blue Sky Papers.

 Lovely typewriter - The Boho Wedding Blog

 Leave a message on the tree...

 I like this idea, guests leave a message on a puzzle piece - Wedding Guestbook Puzzles

 Why not leave a message on a decorative plate - The Lemon Peel

 I know Danny would really like this idea, leaving messages on records - Ti Amo

I also really like the idea of using old vintage postcards for people to leave messages on - The Boho Wedding Blog

Monday, 9 July 2012

Feather & Black Make-Over Challenge!

The Feather & Black challenge couldn't have come at a better time for me, we'd just manged to get rid of an old desk that was taking up valueable space in our bedroom... which just so happens to be the PERFECT space for a lovely blanket box from Feather & Black. I have long admired their gorgeous bedroom furniture. My fairytale, dream house would have a Feather & Blacks bedroom - in (my favourite) the Sienna range.

While we have not long moved into the house, we are still working on making the space our own and adding our own finishing touches to it. We are also still in the process of building up our collection of furniture (coming from rented and furnished accomodation whilst we were students). What it really needs is a bit more character. I love the windows in our bedroom, they let in lots of light and they have huge window sills. But at the moment our bedroom is still very bland and it's lacking something... Here is the bedroom "before" the Feather & Black make-over...

Keep your eyes peeled for my next two posts... revealing the makeover as it progresses! In the meantime have a look and see which range is your favourite on their website. Good luck to the other bloggers taking part in the challenge, I can't wait to see what you do with your rooms! Check out their Feather & Black make-overs - at That's Yummy Mummy, Mummy in Manolos, Mother's Always Right, and Emma and Three. My challenge will be featuring on The Style PA's blog too so be sure to pay her a visit. Below is the beautiful blanket box that I will be adding to our room in a bid to give it the Feather & Black make-over challenge!

Also, on another note, at some point in the last couple of posts I hit the big 300! Happy 300th blog post to me, hurrah! Thank you to anyone who has had a little look at my blog over the past three years...