Challenging Myself

Yesterday we had a brief for our first real assignment. Scary stuff! It isn’t due until February, but I’m a big believer that you usually get given the time you need. It’s already feeling daunting to be trying to write at level 7(masters level) and reading the marking system is only making me feel more intimidated. Phrases like ‘…of publishable quality’ don’t really fill me with confidence.

For our assignment we have to pick a subject (either Maths, English or Science) and we will be finding a current issue surrounding it, researching it, putting it to practice on placement, learning from it and presenting our findings. Initially I thought why make life hard? So considered choosing a subject I am most comfortable with (FYI that’s English). However after speaking to a tutor it seems I’m likely to get more from facing my demons and addressing a subject that I have a strong emotional response to…I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this!

So, yes the current plan is that I’ll be choosing Maths. This is open to change, but as it stands I think this is the right (if slightly painful) decision. I am very passionate about helping children who think they are ‘bad’ at Maths, or have anxiety towards Maths. I know how difficult that is, and how people that enjoy Maths can struggle to understand. It is a goal of mine to be a successful and empathetic maths teacher who can adapt to the needs of different pupils. It seems along way off at the moment, but maybe this is the first step in getting there.

So wish me luck! Also do you like my visual representation of my Maths journey? Certainly time well spent!

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The more time I spend on this course, the more I believe that anyone can be a confident Maths learner. I still have my ups and downs but my confidence is certainly improving!

What challenges are you having to overcome at the moment?

Mathematical Katie

 

 

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Going on a Journey

Last week my group and I went off the beaten track and into the woods to make ourselves a journey stick. This was one of our directed tasks and can be used cross curricular to get children out of the classroom, where they then make a visual representation of the journey they have taken. I think this is a fantastic idea that could be used for a wide range of learners, bridging the gap between different ability levels. Once back in the classroom, the physical representation of the trip the class have taken will hopefully be inspiration and guidance when drawing maps, creative writing or recounting their journey.

Along the way we also took lots of photographs that would inspire work when we were back at uni. Children could use a number of different techniques to record their journey including, drawing, rubbings, video recording, audio recording, writing and photography.

We hunted for mini-beasts and other woodland inhabitants

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We tried a number of different views with our photos to inspire our writing later on (worms-eye view)

We also were instructed to collect an interesting leaf that we could use to inspire our poetry. It’s interesting how little attention we pay to things like leaves. Once we were told to pick one out on our journey I spent more time then ever before inspecting the colours, patterns and texture in leaves I passed. I guess that’s why getting children out into the world is important for their learning as they can make discoveries and spend longer looking at things they may not see on a daily basis. This will help to inspire children so much more then just being told about the woodland, or shown photographs.

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My very interesting leaf. I could see the rich colours and textures inspiring observational drawings and paintings.

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So, after our long walk we returned to campus with our (pretty awesome) journey stick…

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We were doing this task for our English class, however there is so much potential for using this activity across a number of subjects. Here’s a few ideas our group came up with:

Art
Pupils could collect inspiring items when studying colour and texture. Their journey stick could inspire observational painting, drawing and other mark making.

History
Pupils could use their journey stick to make a visual representation of a timeline, attaching items that remind them of events in a certain historical period. They could also collect items in a location to look at how that place has changed between a period in time and modern day.

Maths
A journey stick could be used to collect examples of pattern in the natural world. This might be more appropriate for younger students, but could help to give Maths more context in their lives and make it relevant to them.

Geography
If pupils were studying their local area a journey stick would be a fantastic way to look at the features of their town i.e. parks, nature reserves, shopping areas, farms. Collecting items they find will create a journey stick that becomes a visual interpretation of their area. This would be fantastic inspiration for writing a persuasive piece about why tourists should visit their town.

So what are your thoughts on journey sticks? Is this something you think you might try with your students?

Katie

PGCE Week Two: Turning a Corner

So we have reached the end of week two and I’m still standing. However I’m starting to understand why so many people call this course a rollercoaster ride. I’ve written this reflection over and over in my head this week, and each time it came out differently. Every day seems to make me question myself and what I know, or what I thought I knew. That is a good thing though, right?

Monday came and went without any fuss, but it was Tuesday that began to stir things up in my mind. We had a computing lecture and it was something I had actually been really looking forward to. I wouldn’t call myself a logical thinker or an IT fan, but I understand the importance of computing in the curriculum, and am eager to learn how I can make the subject relevant to my future pupils. Also, my fiancé is a software developer and it was nice to finally be learning about some of the things he talks about after work (it often goes over my head).

The lecture started with a chess piece puzzle. We had to navigate the knight around, making sure we only landed on each square once. Faced with a blank numbered grid, and instructions telling my to solve the puzzle I did what I usually do in this situation and give up. I know that’s terrible, but I am just not a puzzle person. I  resigned to never being able to solve puzzles back in secondary school. Telling yourself something like that makes it feel very justified not to even try. Seeing that I was the only one not desperate to solve it was a shock and I realised my thought process was all wrong. So I tried, and failed.

Later on in the lecture we looked at another puzzle. This one was a tube map with all of the destinations linked neatly by little lines. Finding a route around them all was simple, even I had an answer almost immediately. We were then told that this puzzle was essentially the same as the one I had given up on. They both had 12 stops, and they both involved finding a route without visiting each stop/box more then once. This was a complete surprise but was the  catalyst I needed to start looking at things in a different way.

A friend and I then went back and meticulously worked out which stop would fit in each box. What one was the aquarium? Well it could only be this one because the aquarium had 3 routes from it… We quickly labelled the whole grid, knowing that we could then use the same route that had solved the second puzzle, to solve the first. Simple. It may sound silly but this felt like a huge achievement for me. Something I hadn’t thought I was capable of, I had just managed to complete.

But what was so different the second time? The first time I was overwhelmed by the task, already having decided that I couldn’t possibly complete it. Once I had been given more information I was able to go back and think about it logically. What did I know? I worked with the information I knew was true, putting that down first. Then I worked from that point, set by step, not getting intimidated by the big picture.

It dawned on me that my attitude to a subject has a huge affect on how I perform. If I applied this thinking to my Maths, I would be much more likely to improve my confidence and subject knowledge. I felt like I had definitely turned a mental corner!

Following computing we had a maths seminar. It has become clear that my own maths learning as a primary student has dented my confidence. We would work quietly from work sheets. I would get the same questions wrong, make the same mistakes over and over, and feel quite useless. I now know that I am connectionist learner. I work best in Maths when I can explain things to my peers, and hear other peoples methods of working things out. All this time I have thought I was terrible at Maths, when really I may not have been taught well.

I hope that with this in mind I can grow to become an empathetic Maths teacher, who will be empathetic and adapt to the needs of an individual. I do not want to alienate children who just aren’t getting it. That’s the point that I need to change my method.

So I was a high for the majority of the week, having turned that corner. But, in true roller coaster fashion the high can only last so long. Towards the end of the week I tried some SATs Maths papers. The level 3-5 was fine, but the level 6 was a big struggle for me. Naively I think I believed that as I had this new found positive attitude I would be instantly better. Obviously this sounds ridiculous and was not the case. What scares we about Maths is that sometimes I think I’m doing well, and it isn’t until I mark it that I realise I was completely off track. Surely it’s worrying to not even be aware that you’re doing badly?

Anyway, I can’t let setbacks like these taint my new Maths learner image. I truly want to conquer this demon of mine, and become a successful teacher. At moment it seems like a big subject knowledge mountain to climb, but hopefully it I chip away at it slowly, I’ll get there.

Only one more week until we start the first of our school based training…where does the time go!? I’m so excited to get started, but it does worry me that time will pass too quickly, before I’ve actually learnt what I’m doing, and I’ll be applying for jobs in the blink of an eye.

So its been an interesting kind of week. I have learnt a lot about myself, whilst finding many more unanswered questions. That’s all part of the process though (so I hear).

A future mathematician

 

PGCE Week One: Stories, weaving and opinions

So where did we leave off? Last week seems like a little bit of a blur, having fitted so much in. With a scarily short year ahead of us and trying to achieve so much, it is clear why PGCE students are always busy. However, we have not suffered a single dull moment, and every day has so far felt packed with insightful opinions and thought provoking questions.

Opinions

One key message that has got me thinking this week is how we must consider the nature of our opinions. It is natural to begin with an emotional response to something, but we need to start thinking deeper to take that response to an academic level, based on theory and research. This is something we have been practicing in group and individual activities, by analysing quotes. All the quotes we looked at were interesting and posed many instant emotional responses, but all were ambiguous at points, with vague and undefined language. It is becoming clear that as teachers we need to take time over our responses to ensure we develop our opinions fully. I am hoping this will come into play when we develop our writing to a masters level (something that is feeling daunting at the moment).

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Responding at this level is making me slightly nervous as I question the validity of my own opinions. However I know if they are academic and informed then my opinion should be voiced. I hope that in the coming weeks I find my ‘voice’ and begin to feel more comfortable standing behind my opinions. I’m sure this will come from practice, with research and theory to mould and support my thoughts. These things I will work on next week if the opportunities arise.

Stories

Our focusses then turned to stories. Stories are an integral part of our lives, and it has been said that pretty much everything we do is the basis for a story. Sharing stories can be a way to bond with another person or share information. With that in mind, stories are also an exceptional hook for the basis of a lesson in any topic or subject. We all know reading is crucial to the development of children, so I was very keen to hear more about how they can be used during lessons.

This then began our two day focus on stories, which would finish with our groups producing a display showcasing our learning and reflections. This felt incredibly daunting to begin with, as organising a group of 26 is something I didn’t think would happen easily. How wrong I was! We worked together very well and found we decided on a theme for our board quickly, allowing us to get on with building it at the end of the first day. We decided on a garden theme with a large tree growing in the middle, representing how so much grows from a book; our learning, the imagination of children and a lesson!

This experience was an eye opener to me, and took me back to something we had been told in a lecture “never underestimate your children!”. I had underestimated our group. We had achieved something that I wasn’t sure we could. It seems so clear now that without challenging yourself to something that seems scary or almost impossible, how will you ever know if it is achievable? If we have preconceived ideas of our limits, how will we ever surpass them? I hope this sticks with me, as I certainly do not want to put a limit on what my future pupils can achieve!

We have had a series of workshops, showing us the power of stories for lesson planning, and how one book can be used to generate an extremely wide range of ideas across all subjects. We looked at ‘The Snail and the Whale’ by Julia Donaldson for one. The endless bounty of ideas that can be drawn from one book is astonishing! Lessons I never thought could be linked (like maths and art) can be easily combined with a singular theme from a picture book. I think that when planning lessons in the future, books may become my safety blanket. As long as I have a book to start with, I will be fine.  It also was clear from this workshop that even small creative touches to a lesson can be very effective, as shown in our experiments below. I have often worried about delivering show stopping lessons every time, and how would I produce these incredible ideas. I can see now how a link to a book can be subtle, whilst not making it any less engaging. The link gives the experiment much more purpose and excitement.

An experiment we did based on the snail and the whale. What could we use on the sandpaper (sand) to make it easier for us to pull the weight (whale) across. What material would result in less force being used.

What material would insulate the beaker, keeping the water hottest? Or, what material harvested from a passing cruise ship would keep the snail warmest out in the ocean?

We used wax resist painting to interpret scenes from the book, showing how it can be used it incorporate art.

We used wax resist painting to interpret scenes from the book, showing how it can be used it incorporate art.

In another workshop we looked at a book called “The Princess’ Blankets” by Carol Ann Duffy. Our activity was to write poem and weave our very own ‘blanket’ in pairs. What really struck me about this lesson, was the fantastic boxes made by our lecturer representing each of the blankets in the book (earth, water, forrest, mountain).

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I just thought these tactile boxes, full of texture and colour were an amazing way of bringing the story to life and inspiring a group before a piece work. This would help with vocabulary and ideas with a group of children, and they could even have time to create their own, collecting things from around the school.

Of course I had to show you our weaving!

Confidence

It has been brought to my attention this week how important confidence will be to our practice. It seems engrained in our nature to play down our skills, and we are all so quick to say “I’m rubbish at…” “I can’t…”. Why is it so bad to recognise our strengths? Why can’t we be proud of our individuality and unique talents? I am someone who is certainly guilty of often referring to myself as terrible at Maths. However, this is not only bad for myself and my own progression, but also for my future pupils. It is so important that we leave all of our personal baggage at the door when we teach so that we aren’t passing on that negativity to our class. How can I expect a child to overcome their challenges in a subject, if I at 24, still have my own? I am not bad at maths, I am less practiced then with other subjects. I have some work to do, but I am not bad. I am not useless. I do not believe this is true about ANY child, so why would it be true about myself?

We are starting our maths lectures next week and I am very excited to begin developing in this subject. I want to give it my all and turn my perspective around. I would feel so accomplished to improve my confidence with numbers and one day do the same for the children in my class.


This week has been wonderful and I already feel like I have learnt so much. I am so sure I’m forgetting things. We covered so many things this week that I could certainly go on forever. I’m hoping to try and reflect twice a week, so that I don’t need to try and fit quite so much into one post, but know if that will be possible once the real work starts…I have a feeling this week we’ve been eased in gently!

Katie

 

PGCE Day One

As to be expected, our first day consisted mainly of introductions and was a bit blur if I’m honest. Looking back now in a sleepy haze, it’s hard to quite fathom everything we packed into day one, but this day has definitely been a good one. There is certainly a lot to take in, but I’m excited to get past the introductions and start really getting stuck in.

Today we were introduced to the idea of academic thinking, something that will be crucial for succeeding with our masters level assignments. It isn’t enough for us to have an opinion, we need to be able to support and justify it based on research, theory and practice. This deeper thinking will help us to become more reflective, and ultimately better practitioners.

We’ve already started one group assignment. It’s only a short one, asking us to put into practice those academic thinking skills we discussed today. However it feels great to get started with some work, and working in a group will help us to get to know each other quicker.

In other news one of our lecturers has requested that we keep a weekly reflective journal during the course, in whatever format we feel will be most effective for us. I think since I’ve already been blogging for a while, this will be the format that works best for me. I like how, for me, blogging feels time effective. I’m able to produce a post covering everything I need it to, in a relatively short space of time. I love the idea of a sketchbook but I think I may get carried away with unnecessary aesthetics (that’s the design student in me!). Also I think the pressure of knowing each post will be public, will force me to really consider my opinions, making me be more reflective and academically minded. So this weekend I plan on tidying up my little internet space, and making it all much more concise and appropriate…watch this space!

Katie
(A real PGCE student)

PGCE Eve

Tomorrow is the big day, and although I don’t have anything interesting to report, I thought it was right to check in…

So today I spent the morning baking for my fiancés birthday. Around lunchtime I binned my failed baking attempt, and then this afternoon has been spent preparing for uni tomorrow. It’s funny the pointless things we do to make ourselves feel prepared, like painting our nails, changing the bed sheets and just having a good clean up in general. I might even put on a face mask later, like that’s going to help at all! Overall though I am feeling ready. Prepared might be too strong a word, as I am apprehensive about how difficult I’ll find the course, but I’m optimistic and certainly ready to get started.

So the plan for tomorrow is a 9am start. I’m going to get up hideously early to make sure traffic and parking isn’t a problem. We’ll be beginning with an introduction, and then I think we have a few lectures in the afternoon for one of our modules. Tuesday is the day we actually enrol, and then I’d imagine it’ll be real work from then on in!

I haven’t got much of a blogging schedule in mind for the future, and I definitely don’t want to promise more then I can deliver. However I would ideally like to record as much of my experience as possible, so I’ll certainly update tomorrow and we’ll take it from there!

Oh and one other thing, if you’ve started your PGCE then well done! I hope it’s going well for you so far. Thank you to anyone who has written a post on their first few days. I’ve been reading lots of your posts and they’ve made me so excited to start and have also given me a good idea of what to expect. I am very grateful for this as it has meant today has been mostly worry and stress free (however never underestimate the stress of a failed bake!)

Wish me luck!

Katie

The countdown – 10 days to go

The countdown begins. Time seems to go so slowly when you’re waiting for something to happen, some life changing event, and then all of sudden it creeps up on you. It takes you by surprise and you feel unprepared, despite all the preparing you’ve been doing over the last 8 months.

I’ve been flicking between excitement and nervousness and I now think starting the course will come as somewhat of a relief. Reading other peoples experiences are a comfort, but they don’t quite give you the full picture. My university will probably do things differently to others, the workload may differ and the people on my course are yet to be met. Some people make out that I should expect to give up all recreational activities this year: seeing friends, watching tv and sleeping to name a few. Part of me understands and anticipates this, but the other part of me almost sees this as a challenge. I’m sure this naivety will seem hilarious when I look back on this post.

My main anxiety is currently about parking. Of all the issues I will encounter this year I have no idea why parking is my number one concern. If all I have to worry about is parking then I’l be laughing, surely! However getting used to the universities’ systems and layout is stressful as I cannot bare to be late. Also I’m sure the lecturers would not put up with lateness. Once I’ve settled into my new ‘morning routine’ I’ll feel a lot more at ease…I think.

Due to the warnings I have heeded from many others, I am trying to make a plan to become as prepared as possible. My plan is to finish my prep work this weekend, and then spend next week doing the following jobs:

  • De-clutter and re-organise wardrobe (or should I say floordrobe)
  • Soak up as much friend time as I can (before they forget what I look like)
  • Go on a teacher clothes shopping trip. I think smart black trousers are probably a must.
  • Start reading my textbooks and recommended reading. I’m hoping getting ahead with this will help throughout the year.
  • Finish tidying and organising my room (it is the bane of my life. Me + Fiancé in one room at my parents house = constant mess and bedsit hell)

Hopefully this time next week I’ll write an update saying that I have achieved all of the above and am now feeling blissfully relaxed and prepared. I can hope can’t I?

If you’re starting a PGCE this month let me know what your doing to prepare yourself, or any tips you’ve got for ending the first day nerves. Good luck everyone! I’m sure we can do it 🙂

Katie