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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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!
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!