Active Learning – our “Class Clock”
Jan 28th, 2010 by H-Blog

Some of the pupils in my class had been struggling with some of the finer details of telling the time. They were trying hard, but, let’s face it, the concepts can be quite tricky. They were becoming quite disillusioned, so last week I showed them a Youtube video of Dave Allen talking about learning to tell the time

Now, we had been doing work on this same target for a few weeks now, and they were still having bother. The video cheered them up a bit, and stopped them feeling that they were the only people in the world who had ever had these problems. I had been thinking about how I might help them ‘get it’ all week, but was still unsure.

And then I had a eureka moment.

We got the desks back against the wall of the class, so we just had a big gap in the middle of the class and 3 piles of chairs. I told them I wasn’t going to give them any instructions, but that when they knew what I was doing they could help me. I put a chair standing in the gap, and then wrote out a number 12 and stuck it on. As soon as I wrote 6, they had it sussed and were able to help me arrange the chairs in a circle with the numbers 1-12 stuck on them in the correct clockface positions. We used a ruler as ‘the hour hand’ and they were all able to demonstrate that they knew where the hour hand should be pointing for a particular “o’clock”. We put a swivel chair in the middle of the ‘clock’ to help us move smoothly like a clock, and also had a discussion about the way the hand would move (only clockwise!).

Next, I moved the marked hours down off the backs of the circled chairs so they were hanging on the seat part, and stuck a sign with “o’clock” onto the back of the 12 chair. Again, they were quick to realise what was happening and in turns (starting with half past, quarter past and quarter to) we soon had the minutes in the right places above the respective hours. I found that being able to actually turn round really helped them work out where the numbers were in relation to each other – for instance, if they were facing 9, I could ask what was behind them and they knew without looking that it was 3.

Our chairs have been formed into a circle to represent a clock face, with the hours 1-12 stuck on low down and the minutes from o'clock to five to stuck on higher up

Our chairs have been formed into a circle to represent a clock face, with the hours 1-12 stuck on low down and the minutes from o'clock to five to stuck on higher up

We then found ourselves a suitable hour hand, it having to be significantly longer than our hour hand, and thinner if possible. We then practised showing a particular minute to/from using the hour hand, before setting a question for the other pupils. Again, they were able to demonstrate good knowledge, and again the physical set up helped – for instance, with the hours being closer to the centre of the clock, I was able to point out that the minute hand was longer, and therefore should be looking at the further away numbers. It also helped I could direct gaze – ‘look up’ or ‘look down’ were a real help to the pupils. Also, being able to physically handle the hour and minute hands certainly seemed to help them distinguish between them.

Big hand pointing to 12, small hand pointing to 1. What time do you think it says on the clock?

Big hand pointing to 12, small hand pointing to 1. What time do you think it says on the clock?

WE then took some pictures of our clock, and Twitpicced them – an hour later they had had about 40 views each, and we also got a couple of comments from a parent. Finally, in turn I gave the pupils a single hand of the clock and got them to point to a specific chair. They had to read the chair’s time to me using which hand they had to tell which number they were to read. Again, this worked very well. At that point, we sorted the chairs and the desks out, put everything back where it should be and went to use one of the excellent Teaching Time resources on the SMART Board as a plenary activity. Just as we were about to start, I remembered that I had promised myself to use AudioBoo with the class, so out came Artoo (my trusty iPhone) and I had a chat with the boys about the lesson. The result was not quite as structured as I would have liked, but seemed positive. Judge for yourself by having a listen!

So, a successful lesson, and a useful technique that we can use again. I have already had another couple of ideas to develop the activity. The one downside was when I was asking my PSA if she thought the lesson had been any good: “Oh yes, I thought it was excellent. Was that one of Cassie’s ideas?”

The way forward
Jan 25th, 2010 by H-Blog

So, shamed into action by Alan Hamilton and his bright shiny new blog (and this post in particular) I thought I would have a bit of blog reflection myself.

Whilst I have to confess that it all seems a bit of a whirlwind now, 2009 was a big year for me professionally. I finished the Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Support from Strathclyde University and began the Postgraduate Diploma. My confidence in class had grown with my first year in the sector under my belt, and I felt I was just starting to get a handle on my class when it was time to move class again! This time I found myself in our ‘integration unit’ at the local high school, with the older pupils from our school who can handle that kind of an environment. This meant more SQA Access 1, 2 and Core Skills units, more college days or the pupils, and more organisational challenges for me. The addition of the ASDAN Transition Challenge to our repertoire was also to provide challenges. I contributed in a small way to organising at least 3 TeachMeets (and a very successful BeerMeet) and also presented at 2 TeachMeets, one virtual and one actual. I also managed to find myself on the school ICT Quality Team, tagged as the school Glow expert and on some Glow training. Phew.


I managed to write 13 blog posts last year – in reverse chronological order:

Multitouch mayhem – finding our way around a SMART Table
SLF09 Post 2: TeachMeet – is there a time to break the the rules?
SLF09 Post 1 – Presenting on the SMART Table
Building Glow Communities – Social Studies
Catch Up Post – Part 2 – #weather_me
Catch Up Post – Part 1 – Teachmeet Student Edition
And now, in a break from your scheduled programming….
Smart Table Activity Toolkit – Hot Spotting!
Introducing our Smart Table
TeachMeet hits the Borders
The Impact of Academia
New Year’s Resolution

While that’s an average of more than one a month, in reality there were months with nothing doing on the blog. Plus, there was a lot of good stuff that never made it to the blog either. Put that together with long blog posts, and it might just be a recipe for disaster.

So this year it’s going to be different. Answering Alan’s challenge, this post was to outline my ambitions for the year ahead.

1) Write a post on this blog at the very least once a month. I’m also going to embrace shorter, snappier posts for the issues which don’t need to be too indepth, and try and widen out what I post about.
2) Related to the above, I am going to try and publish a ‘phlog’/podcast/audioboo on the EDUTalk website at least once a month as part of the EDUTalk365 project. I already have one for January under my belt, and have spoken to David Noble about theming this round my adoption of the ASDAN programme into our practice, and linking it with ACfe.
3) Continue to get actively involved in real, quality CPD. As a TeachMeet and Twitter evangelist, I am hugely excited about the amount of opportunities they continue to offer me through the network of contacts I have built, and the support and help they offer each other.
4) Not really education related, but if I put it up here then I’ll have to stick to it or live with the shame. Now the sciataca is gone and the tendons are back in shape, build my fitness back up with the first two targets being a Sport Relief mile and a 5k. The “Couch to 5k” iPhone app and BMF should help with this.
5) Complete and pass the Diploma in Educational Support. A great opportunity that has been given to me, I am determined to pass it, despite the difficulties it can cause with regards to free time, etc. My first module is complete and the essay in (although I fear a resubmission may be on the cards :-s ) the second one is proving even more challenging, but I’m learning so much too.

That’ll probably do for just now – I’ll maybe look back after 3 months and see how I’m getting on.

Jul 27th, 2009 by H-Blog

Although I am still a fairly new teacher, when you take into account my scouting experience and my work as a classroom assistant, I have been working with children for about 20 years now in a variety of settings and roles; this has given me an interesting insight into how children’s lives have changed over this period.

I have found myself experiencing a growing unease about the lives many young people live today. As well as spending the majority of their leisure time in (often solitary) indoor pursuits like computer games or surfing the internet (not that there is anything wrong with these activities per se you understand :-p) and little time engaging in outdoor pursuits  like we did “when I were a lad”, I also feel that many children are ‘overregulated’; that is to say they seem to spend far less time outwith the supervision of adults now than they ever did. I find myself thinking that perhaps today’s children are missing out on the huge informal learning experiences that we took for granted when we were allowed a far greater freedom than today’s children seem to be offered.

Okay, sometimes we got ourselves into scrapes, or picked up the odd injury or twelve, and perhaps we got up to some mischief, but on the other hand we learned to evaluate risks, to formulate plans, to debate and to negotiate and of course a multitude of social skills. In short, we learnt what it was to be independent. Are today’s young people offered the same opportunities? It doesn’t seem so.

Whilst it may once have been the norm for children to be away playing with their friends all day only to reappear at mealtimes and dusk, a similar attitude today would find you being targeted as a bad parent. As a result, children are rarely allowed ‘off the leash’ as it were, and even if they are there is usually a mobile phone allowing communication but also location tagging should the parent desire. But is it necessarily the case that we are just ‘looking out’ for children, or have they become what Britney would call ‘overprotected’?

It was from this mindset that I came across the following article in yesterday’s Sunday Mail today (don’t ask!). I found it fascinating, and thoroughly applaud the philosophy behind it. Outdoors in all weathers – when did that become a revolutionary idea? The quote from Adam Ingram on the website is fantastic: ” There is a cotton-wool culture that has developed in Scotland and encouraging young people to get out and reconnect with the natural world can only enrich their lives”.

I hope it is a real success, and am also hopeful that being in the south side of Glasgow I might be able to swing a wee day-visit to see exactly what goes on after the holidays are over.

Have a read and see what you think.

Sunday Mail article 26th July

New Year’s Resolution
Jan 7th, 2009 by H-Blog

Having been shamed by the amount of blogging being done by colleagues, friends and former pupils, I have resolved to make a real effort to blog more often this year. In fairness, last year’s blogging was undone by a double whammy of regular edublog-outs and my discovery of Twitter but hopefully this year will be an improvement.

Have been reading and hearing a fair amount of negative stuff about ACfE recently, and am becoming increasingly worried that like some highly-powered, finely tuned, precision-engineered Formula 1 flying machine with a clodhopper at the controls it is going to be left stalled on the grid. The saddest thing about that possibility is just how many people working in education will be secretly (and not-so-secretly) delighted if it does. There are so many people I meet who never mind not having the inclination to make ACfE happen, they actually have an inclination to make it NOT happen. As a reasonable newcomer to the profession, this is my first real insight into such professional inertia and, well, conservatism. Has been a bit of an eye-opener, actually.

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