Blog Class Pages Featured Latest News Teaching & Learning Blog Year 5 Blog

Mindset, Multiplication and Maps

As always the children in Year 5 have been working extremely hard. It is lovely to see the children are growing in confidence and becoming more independent with how they approach their work. At the start of the week we revisited the messages from the Growth Mindset workshop. The children thought about the skills needed to become successful in their learning, including ‘how’ good learning takes place and that ‘effort’ always leads to success.

This particular aspect has been so obvious to see in maths over the last few weeks. The children have been focusing on multiplication methods and moving from informal to more standard methods of calculation. Not an easy method to master particularly if you are a bit shaky on your tables. As always, I have been repeating my mantra and reminding the children about how important it is to learn the multiplication. I can see that some of the children have been putting in the effort and are breezing through these tricky methods.


If you would like to support your child to learn the multiplication facts, than pop into school and pick up some resources from me so you can help at home.



We’ve made a great start to our next history enquiry too. The children enjoyed comparing old and new OS maps and looked at how Unsworth has changed. They worked in small groups and created 3D models of how this area might have looked 100 years ago. The children added pop up houses, farms and even Victoria Mill which once stood where our school is today. They were amazed to learn that even their houses did not exist 100 years ago. We’ve also had some great resources brought in by one of the children, showing his great grand parents gardening in their ‘new’ 1960s house and the initial stages of our school being erected in the background!

In science the children have been thinking about how different animal groups begin their life, including those that start as an egg and those that give birth to live young. The children worked in pairs to show different life cycle models, adding on information about each stage of the cycle.




Over the next few weeks, we should be getting a new addition to our class…so don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to find out about this exciting work.

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Windows to learning

A window provides a viewpoint, a means by which to look out and survey the surroundings. Typically our homes have many and through each we get a different view, a different perspective of the world around us. Windows provide us with a means by which to reflect on what we see, to gaze on a landscape that changes over time and a chance to contemplate what could be. So think about our schools, our classrooms, our children’s books, are they not windows to learning? Windows to what has been, what is and what could possibly be?

For me, learning windows offer an opportunity for us to stop and reflect, an opportunity to take time to really take in the landscape of learning and a chance to stop and consider what really matters when it comes to making the best choices for learners.

At this moment in time our education system as we know it is the hot topic of conversation across the media and it seems like everyday brings a new story or press release. Educators up and down the country face a constant battle between what they feel is the right thing to do and external pressures. Yet this is just one way of viewing education and in some ways is just one of the many windows that we could say open onto the landscape of learning. For me, teachers need to teach and they need to be given the professional space to develop learning cultures that truly inspire the next generation of learners and allow an engaging curriculum to flourish. That professional space is their classrooms; the space through which they promote curiosity, nurture creativity, build resilience, challenge the status quo and make anything seem possible.

The class of children I teach talk with me all the time about their learning windows and they have come to see their books as a window through which they can spend time thinking about their learning. What is so interesting is how the term “window” has altered the way in which they talk about their books and how they reflect on their progress. I have always believed that feedback is ultimately the one factor that improves a child’s performance, but feedback doesn’t just take one form. There are no magic formulas, whole school rigid criteria or gimmicks that can provide effective feedback. Effective feedback comes from the dialogue that happens between a teacher and a learner.

For dialogue to be transformative it should be a  two way street, be born out of co-agency and trust, so that both the teacher and learner work together to achieve the best possible result. When a teacher really knows their curriculum and invests time in understanding the learners that that teach, only then can feedback be most effective. For every learner it looks different, a word, a phrase, a tone of voice, a gesture or a model just to name a few. When feedback works, it is because it has changed the way someone does or approaches something.

The children I teach recognise this and it struck me today how much power a learning window has when the landscape on which you gaze becomes the focus of the dialogue. I was having a conversation with one of my learners about how they felt about their work over time and I was amazed at the response I got because it was about an honest appraisal of what a learner felt and what a learner could say about their progress over time.

“You see Mr Rhodes, at the start of year 2 this window (an English book) didn’t look great. I felt really frustrated and disappointed with  the things I did, but now just look at it. I feel confident and I love looking at what I have achieved”

A learning window, whether it be a book, a section of a lesson, a look at a classroom on a particular day at a particular time, is a snapshot. Time is such a precious commodity as it seems to pass so quickly and it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done, but is this the case or do we need to rethink what is important and consider where best to spend our time?

Over the years I have started to gaze more at the learning windows that surround me and to take notice of the landscape that unfolds. I have taken time to encourage my learners to do the same and tried to build in them the understanding of why reflecting on where you have been, where you are and where you might go is such an important thing to do. Recently I came across a topic  book from 9 years ago that had lay hidden on a shelf gathering dust. Within that book lay frozen in time a snap shot of a year of learning. As I looked through that learning window I glimpsed a curriculum and an approach that no longer exists. It no longer exists because reflection and feedback have transformed what once was for the better.

As educators we need to open up all the learning windows that surround us, taking stock of the landscapes that unfold, whilst discerning where our gaze needs to fall. If we listen to learners and engage in a two way dialogue that aims to change the landscape we see for the better, then surely some of those other windows can be closed, looked upon for perspective, but not seen as imposing views that mask what is important; the hopes and dreams of our children.


Featured Latest News Teaching & Learning Blog Year 2 Blog

Nurturing creativity

Nurturing and developing children’s creativity is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher. This week has been one of those weeks where children have been given a range of opportunities to be creative through using a range of different mediums such as art, music, drama, play and writing. It is through these different activities that children get an opportunity to make their own decisions and allow their personality to be expressed.

As a school we celebrate imagination, innovation and individuality through our daily practice. For us, it is so important that our classrooms and communal spaces are filled with children’s thoughts, ideas and own original pieces of work.

Reflecting on the different tasks that Y2 have done this week has been a real pleasure, as every child has shown how creative they can be when given the chance to share how they feel or experiment for themselves. For me, it is so important to provide children with opportunities to shine, to develop their own line of enquiry or make choices that reflect their own ideas. It is so rewarding to step back and reflect on how independent Y2 have started to become and also how imaginative they are when it comes to creating something for themselves.

The Aboriginal art work they have developed this week both indoors and outdoors is one of example of how hard the children have worked to produce their personal best. It is so important to put creativity at the centre of a school curriculum. Giving children and adults the space to innovate and be original allows for fresh perspectives, new ideas and a means by which to continually evolve. It also gives a space for expressing feelings and emotions.  The work below highlights how Y2 have expressed themselves this week through colour and imagery.


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Being a good learner

If we take the word learner and think of it in its purest form, it simply means a person who is still learning something. We often talk about the learners within a classroom or a school and the focus falls on the pupils, but is it not important to actually step back and take in the broader picture, asking the question that are we not all learners? At its core teaching aims to develop an individual and move them on from one point to another. This happens through the experiences, interactions and dialogue that happens between two individuals.

This week I have had the privilege of being part of the Bury NQT conference where NQT’s across Bury had the opportunity to come together and develop their knowledge and understanding of what makes a great teacher. We were very lucky to spend the day with Andy Griffith, who has developed and documented a means by which to plan and approach learning based on his and his colleagues observations of thousands of lessons. It struck me as Andy talked that every teacher are themselves learners and throughout the day Andy made the point that if we are going to make learning the best it can possibly be, we must value the fact that the journey towards excellence will never end, because we should always be striving to improve.

I felt that the key message that Andy put across was that as teachers, it is up to us to “switch on” the learning experience for our children through developing their autonomy and a belief in always striving to develop someone’s personal best. Every individual is different and carves out their own path in life, but if we as a profession can help shape that path through promoting the belief that anyone can succeed and anyone can aspire to change the world, then surely our children will grow in an environment where anything is possible.

A good learner is someone who grows to understand that learning never stops. Everyday brings something new and our daily lives are constantly filled with all the complexities that the world around us presents, but the key is embracing these aspects as part of the learning cycle. To grow and develop we must learn to see the world around us for what it is; a place where anything is possible and everything is a learning curve. Our children deserve the chance to become good learners, through being “switched on” and developed by practitioners who believe in making a difference. Therefore, being an active learner should be the focus of every teacher, because learning is the tool by which we change the way we think and ultimately change the world around us.


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Working Together

Collaboration has always been a huge part of Unsworth, both within and beyond the school. In its purest form collaboration simply means working with someone to produce something and links to words such as cooperation, alliance, partnership or combination. It is so important to view our school as a collaboration of lots of different partners, from teachers and learners to parents and governors, the local community and schools both locally and nationally.

Currently, our education system as we know it is changing shape dramatically and often on a daily basis. Change often brings a sense of unease for some people or a feeling that different ways of doing things could change something beyond recognition, but is this really the case? Inevitably change will make a difference and it does often bring about a new way of doing something. However, the important factor to consider is the reasons why change is needed and the bigger picture of what it helps to create.

Unsworth is all about embracing change that benefits the education and development of young learners. Over the years we have learnt as a school that through looking closely at our practice and making changes to what we do, we can offer our learners the best possible start  on their learning journey. In essence we aim to develop a love of learning and resilience that allows children to achieve and succeed; something called a “Growth Mind-set”.

Working together through collaboration is at the core of this and this is achieved through our continuous two way dialogue as a community of learners. If you watch the short trailer below you will see how we have worked together as a school to create an exciting curriculum that offers learners opportunities to be curious about the world around them.

For us though, working together is all about how we work with others to help shape the future of learning. Through our work within other schools across the Local Authority and by sharing our practice through learning walks, courses, visits and coaching sessions, we have built up a culture within school where collaboration is commonplace. It is collaboration and partnerships with the BTSA (Bury Teaching School Alliance) and BPLC (Bury Primary Learning Collaborative) that have helped us to share our approaches to assessment, SMSC and the curriculum, whilst also providing opportunities for staff within school to develop their own practice.

In the current educational climate, it is these types of partnerships that will continue to allow us to help shape the way we want to do things for the learners at Unsworth. External support from the Local Authority is disappearing and schools are faced with the prospect of developing stronger links between each other so that together they can support each other to provide the best possible experiences for learners. During the Summer Term , myself and Mrs Reynolds are involved in a new nationwide alliance of educators known as “#LearningFirst”, which is a developing online community who have the aim of making assessment school led. It is these kinds of new collaborations that will shape the future of education and it is exciting to think that Unsworth has an opportunity to play a part and share practice.

Unsworth is already accustomed to “working together” with a range of different partners and through the years we have embraced change, using it as a catalyst to rethink the way we do things and make our approaches school owned. None of our changes would have happened without some form of collaboration. Crucially, we have worked together as a community to create a school that puts teaching and learning first, which clearly emphasises the fact that we are “stronger together” through our partnerships and alliances with others.

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Where does inspiration come from?

Inspiration is something we look for in the world around us as a mechanism by which to develop a thought or idea. At it’s roots, it is something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create. For me, the “something” is the key to making inspiration a part and parcel of our children’s everyday experiences. Too often inspiration is seen as such a big ask, but actually it can come from the simplest of activities, the most unlikely source, a look, a gesture or even a word.

Learning is all about development and moving forward. When this is done well, it happens because “something” made an individual think or triggered a thought. By designing an exciting curriculum that takes an enquiry approach our children are being presented with an approach to learning that seeks to hook them in, by providing opportunities to explore, create and share what they have found out.

As a school we have learnt through our whole school enquiries time and time again that inspiring our children is what achieves quality work that showcases children’s personal best. By using outdoor experiences, real life contexts, books, videos, visitors, apps and objects, we have tried to ensure that inspiration is always at the forefront of children’s learning. By inspiring children to have a go, to investigate and to persevere, we are building up a culture in school where children want to push themselves.

For us, learning comes first and this week it has been fantastic to see the children absorbed in the whole school geography enquiry. As  I wandered between classrooms this morning there were children designing and building their own Mine Craft worlds, pairs of children having discussions about their learning through using text and images in pic collage to visually share what they had found out. A huge 3D model of a local area has been constructed by children and they have been enthusiastically using lots of geography vocabulary with ease. One class have worked in small groups to plan and construct their own park following their visit to  a local park and Reception have turned into pirates in search of treasure.

For us as a school “learning” is always what comes first and it is truly inspiring to see children engaged, enthused and challenged through the curriculum our staff have developed. By inspiring our children to investigate and create, we are opening up the doors of possibility and giving them the opportunity to not only see the world around them at first hand, but to experience it. Below are a few galleries of inspiration in action, where we feel that the memorable experiences we have developed will have a lasting effect on learners.

  • When our school first opened 50 years ago, a whole trip was organised. 50 years later we decided to do the same!
  • The whole school made their way to the East Lancashire Railway station in Bury.
  • The children and adults were incredibly excited.
  • We had our own carriages chartered.
  • As the train pulled up to the platform the whole school started to fill up the carriages and year 6 loved their Hogwarts style carriages.
  • The steam train journey took us to Ramsbottom station.
  • Once we got off the train we started to walk to Nuttall Park.
  • Once we arrived it was time for picnics and games!
  • The children and adults had great fun in the sun.
  • After a few hours of fun in the sun we started our journey home on the steam train. A great end to two nostalgic weeks finding out about "50 years of learning".
Java Gallery by v4.8
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Java Gallery by v4.8
  • We were given an empty shop in the Millgate Centre Bury, which we decided to transform into a 1 day only pop up art gallery.
  • Each class created their final pieces of work, came up with names and had their work framed or put in portfolios.
  • Our arts task team spent a whole day transforming the space to create a range of different areas and set up a gallery experience.
  • Wallpaper was hung.
  • Donated fabric from Dunelm was turned into decorative swags.
  • Each picture was carefully positioned and tacked to the wall.
  • Our window displays aimed to grab the publics attention and one message in our visitors book said how uplifting they were.
  • We wanted people to understand what the children had been learning and see our gallery as a celebration of the learning that had happened in our two week enquiry.
  • Every space was used to display the work done by the children and the examples from Bury Arts Society. Memebers of the society visited on the day to see the final work that the children had produced.
  • We tried to include examples of the subjects that the children had drawn such as tea cups, crisps, chocolate, flowers and fruit.
  • All of the work was arranged in mixed groups and all our visiting children conducted their own search to find their piece of work.
  • Portfolios were produced by some classes to showcase work or the process that they had gone through to produce a final piece.
  • We created a drawing zone so that children could come in and draw pictures to add to our working wall.
  • The children were incredibly proud of their work and loved showing off their achievements.
  • Throughout the day we had over 600 visitors.
  • Even the passing police officers came in to admire the work on display!
  • The drawing zone was a real hit and had lots of budding artists refining their skills.
  • By the end of the day we had filled our working walls.
  • Lots of our visitors wanted to take copies of the work on display.
  • All our visitors spent lots of time studying each piece of work and talking about the skills that the children had developed.
  • Throughout the day the gallery was filled with our school community and members of the public.
Thumbnail Gallery by v4.8
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Taking a leap of faith…

Currently, the teaching profession is experiencing a period of significant change, with a new curriculum that is in its infancy, the removal of assessment levels, the introduction of a new SEND code of practice, the reduction in capacity of Local Authorities to offer support and the growing pressure on schools to deliver more and more services to their communities. For schools, there are so many decisions to make and often choosing the right one is not an easy task.

Over the last few years we have worked really hard at Unsworth to think about and prepare ourselves for all the changes that we knew were coming our way, but also to develop a mind-set that change is something to embrace, as we don’t know what is around the corner. As a staff we have come to see change as an opportunity, as a necessary part of developing our provision for our children and as something that allows us to grow in our pursuit of providing the best possible education. Our children live in an ever evolving, fast paced society, where each and every day brings new challenges or uncovers new learning. On one hand, to prepare children for a future that we can’t yet see is such a difficult task, as how do we know if the latest trends and ideas are going to stay or what if we try something and it doesn’t work out?

Consider this though, 5 years ago we decided as a school to write our own “Unsworth Curriculum”, where we sat together and thought about what we wanted children at Unsworth to experience from the minute they walked in the door in Reception to when they walked out of the door at the end of year 6. This enquiry curriculum was built by staff and has evolved each and every year, as we have learnt about how our children learn best, as we have developed our own knowledge and understanding of curriculum subjects and as we have reflected on the things that have been successful and the things that haven’t worked. All the way along we have stuck to our principles that the way we teach our children is bespoke to their needs. They are always at the centre of everything and when we reflect on the way in which we do things we always take it right back to whether or not it makes a positive impact on our children’s learning. Most of the time we have to make decisions about the way we do things, without knowing exactly what will happen or the effect it might have, but it is these leaps of faith that have moved Unsworth forward and enhanced the way in which our children access our curriculum.

Some good examples of this would be the fact that as a school we rarely use whole class teaching, but instead teach groups of children across lessons, to ensure that children are instantly hooked into their learning, get regular personalised feedback and have every opportunity to develop their skills from their point in the curriculum. For us this approach started 8 years ago and looking back to when it started, it has truly transformed the way in which our children learn and the way in which we teach. At the time, it was bold and there were many outside the school who considered it to be a risk, but for us we felt that it was right for our children and we took a chance to do something to make a difference.

All our classes for the last 7 years have had their own sets of laptops or Ipads, because we felt that we wanted technology to be weaved throughout the curriculum and to be there when the children needed it, rather than in a given slot across the week. We got rid of the ICT suite and the moveable trollies and opted for in class storage solutions. The result was children embraced the technology, teachers had it at their fingertips and technology had the chance to weave its self into the daily practice of each and every class. Not all the decisions we make always work, but I think the saying “you learn from your mistakes” is so true, because like children learn from errors, we as a school learn from trying things out and reflecting on how to adapt. Our writing curriculum is a prime example of this, because it is after 10 years of development, that we feel we have now got to a place where we understand not only what good writing is, but how to develop our children’s love of the writing craft.

Throughout my time at Unsworth myself and my colleagues have always opened up our classrooms to a variety of different educational practitioners and we have had the opportunity to work with some of them within their own settings. Quite often we have not known what the outcomes of these visits or sessions might be, but many of them have resulted in partnerships or projects that have helped shape and develop both our thinking and  curriculum . Crucially, each and every visit has developed our practice and, as a consequence, directly impacted upon the children that we teach. As a school we embrace this kind of approach and increasingly over the last few years we have opened ourselves up to our colleagues in other schools, because we see the value in school to school support.

Recently we have hosted a variety of different types of courses at Unsworth in our new training room, all of which have involved practitioners across Bury spending time within our classrooms experiencing how our children learn on a day to day basis. For me, these visits have made such a positive impact upon our school, because not only has it allowed us as staff to reflect on the way we do things, but it has also given us a wealth of feedback about the way in which our school works.

Sometimes the unknown can seem like something to step away from, but when you think of the current landscape, no one has any idea where things will go and in some ways we never know how things will turn out. If we don’t try things out or push the boundaries of the way we do things, our practice will never move on. As a school we like to evolve and develop the opportunities our children have. When you think about most of the ways in which we do things as a school, they have developed not only from us taking a leap of faith into the unknown, but from being rooted in us understanding what works for our children and putting them at the centre of all that we do. If you read some of the recent comments below that we have received from visitors, hopefully you will see further how important it is for us as a school to keep looking forward and taking every opportunity we have, even if we can’t always predict what the outcome might be.

“Wow Unsworth Primary. Your school makes us feel really welcome! Your focus on bringing out the best in every pupil and your honesty is refreshing.”

 “Thank you for welcoming us into your school during such a busy week. There are so many ideas to share and celebrate, but I will take away how inclusive the school is and how you prioritise and celebrate individuality.”

“Classrooms were stimulating and supported children’s learning. Children were able to talk about their learning confidently and knew the purpose of their tasks.”

“The books are excellent. Marking signposts how to improve really well. The children work very much independently and are proud of their work and their school. Displays are beautiful and vibrant. Children are polite to each other and can talk eloquently. All this has clearly been developed over time. Great staff!”

“It was so good to see all the staff working together as a team. You could see this culture well and truly embedded throughout the school.”

“Thanks to everybody-our school motto is Happiness and High Standards. Your team seems to be as near to achieving it as possible. Well done!”

“Thank you so much for letting us see all the amazing things you are doing with your children. You clearly enthuse and inspire your children. I saw lots of fantastic teaching.”

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The Evolution of Learning

When we think of evolution we often think first of Charles Darwin and his work around the process by which different organisms are believed to have developed from earlier forms during the history of the earth. It’s interesting through to consider the fact that evolution means the “gradual development of something.” I have been lucky enough over the past few weeks to work with a range of different practitioners, who have got me thinking about how learning has changed and is changing.

This year I have been working with Bury NQT’s (Newly Qualified Teachers) to develop their knowledge and understanding about what good teaching is. This involves planning and delivering training sessions where we unpick the theory behind teaching and look at what good practice is. While I was with Bury NQT’s on Thursday, we had the opportunity to go on a learning walk around St John with St Marks Primary School and observe a range of lessons. Visiting another school is always a privilege because it is an opportunity to see how learning and learners are being developed. It was wonderful to see how the children were at the centre of the learning experience and it confirmed for me the importance of listening to learners and developing approaches in school to make learning accessible to all. Through my discussions with other teachers, I always find that I learn something new or think about something in a different way, which is why collaboration between schools is so important.

All of us are learners and learn best from each other. As a school we have been developing this idea through our collaborations with other schools. You will have probably read recently through our blogs, about the variety of different visitors we have had to school and how these visitors help us to develop our thinking further. Linked with this are our visits to other schools, where we get opportunities to see other practitioners, reflect on different learning environments, look at children’s books and participate in learning in different classrooms. These types of experiences are the ways in which we evolve at Unsworth and how we advance our own understanding of learning.

Today I spent a morning at Yesoiday Hatorah School in Prestwich, which is a school I have been working with over the past 18 months. Within the school I have been sharing the work Unsworth have done on assessment and helping the school to develop its own approach through discussing the National picture. It was great to see the work the school has done so far following on from my earlier visits. It further strengthened my belief in the importance of school to school support, where practitioners have professional dialogue about their schools and where they need to go next. My session today provided staff at the school with an opportunity to look through a range of children’s work from Unsworth and a chance for me to discuss what learning is like for our children. I was delighted to hear how impressed the school was with the quality of our children’s work and how inspired the staff felt to develop further the learning experience for children within their own setting.  For me, the school I visited has started to evolve and it is lovely to think that through the evolution of learning at Unsworth, learning in other places is evolving to.

Classrooms, schools and indeed the whole landscape of education, are places that are constantly faced with a need to develop and move on. For myself and Mrs Reynolds, the progression of Unsworth and development of opportunities for learners to thrive further is always a high priority. It is an exciting prospect to be part of the evolution of learning and to value the merits of embracing change. We must see change as something positive, because change brings about reflection, it brings a sense of developing something further and it means that for our children, we are always looking at how learning can shape their futures.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

Nelson Mandela

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What is success?

As a school we are always thinking about success and what that looks like for our children, staff, parents and governors. Throughout our daily practice we talk to children about being successful learners and developing their personal best across the curriculum and it is always so interesting to gather different individuals thoughts on what  “success” is. We often think of success as something we see as an end product or achievement of a specific goal, which are clearly markers of success, but what interests me is the daily successes that happen in each and ever classroom, in the playground, down the corridors and in the hall throughout each and everyday.

For me success is about the development of learning, however small or large. Its about the engagement in dialogue between children and adults about what it is to be not just a great learner, but a great facilitator of learning. Education is an ever changing world and rightly so, when we think of the fact that our youngest children will probably have jobs or careers in things that haven’t been invented yet. Success comes from feeling safe, comfortable, valued and believed in. Through developing a curriculum that engages our children, sparks their imaginations and creates memorable experiences, our children are provided with an environment in which they can thrive as learners.

This week we have had a large number of different visitors to our school, who have helped us to think about a range of different successes. Two Head teacher’s from different schools in Bury spent a great deal of time visiting classrooms, talking to children, looking at books, looking at displays and walking around our school. They spent time talking with staff and governors  to really unpick what we have developed and to give us their views on our school. They saw success everywhere they went in how our whole community demonstrated through their actions, words and attitudes our school vision of “Together We Build Understanding”

A range of teachers from across both primary and secondary schools in Bury, who have been working with myself and another Deputy Head teacher from Tottington Primary on “The Outstanding Teacher Programme” had their final session as a group and considered what it takes to be a really successful classroom practitioner. We invited some of our children along to give their opinions about what a great teacher is and it was a privilege to sit and listen to pupils from year 4 talk with such confidence about what they look for from the adults that work alongside them.

In my blog last week I talked about “Listening to Learners” and it is so important that we all see ourselves as learners. There is always something new to be learnt and the groups of teachers I have been working with demonstrated how through listening to others and making small changes to the way we do things, success is guaranteed.

Success is so much more than a simple outcome. It’s the feeling of pride and sense of achievement that comes from how we develop our thinking. This week, we have had some fantastic feedback about our school. As a school, we enjoy opportunities to open ourselves up and share where we are up to. There are always things to develop and areas we need to focus on, but for me success is recognising the fact that each and everyday the community at Unsworth shares the same belief in being committed to doing the best for our children. This is reflected in the words that visitors say about how they feel when they visit Unsworth and talk to our children.

“Wow Unsworth Primary. Your school makes visitors feel really welcome! Your focus on bringing out the best in every pupil and your honesty is refreshing. Big THANKS to Asghar for his explanation of the writing route map. Truly inspirational”

“Thank you for helping us fill in the characteristics of being a good teacher. After you left, it gave us so much to talk about. You are so polite and confident; a credit to your school! 2 house points”

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Listening to Learners

The primary classroom is a busy place and there is often so much to do that it can be easy to often spend little time taking a step back to appreciate how much learning has happened in such a small space of time. This week I decided to put in some time within class to reflect on what has been achieved so far in year 2. Children are the greatest critics of their own work and indeed their own learning, so my thinking on Monday and Wednesday was to provide children with time to look at their books with a critical eye and consider how their learning is progressing across all aspects of the curriculum.

Year 2 and I talk all the time about their books being like windows to their learning and year 2 will rightly say that out of a window we like a nice view! With this is mind the children took time on Monday and Wednesday to look through their “windows”. As the room filled with the sounds of turning pages, another sound started to silently sweep across the room. On every table I started to hear conversations about presentation, about writing stamina, comparisons of earlier pages to later pages. Children began to compare their books to their peers and as these exchanges took place, the children praised each other for how much their work was changing.

As I listened to all these different conversations, I noticed that as children looked at some pages, their facial expressions appeared disappointed or nervous and I asked children what the reasons were. I was so impressed that children answered by picking out the areas that they needed to develop and also it was lovely to hear them say things like “Well I don’t think I tried my best on this piece of work, but if you look here you can see I have started to…” The children enjoyed spending time carrying out their own work scrutiny and they were able to pick out for themselves different areas that they need to focus on. For me, it was their celebrations of how far they have come that was such a powerful outcome of their time with their “learning windows”

Listening to the learners in the classroom is so important and taking time to hear about how they feel about different activities, tasks and experiences, allows me as the teacher an opportunity to design learning that moves children onto their next steps. In maths this week I have been giving the children opportunities to choose their own level of challenge. This means that learners can decide where they feel they need to  start a task, so some children may feel that they want to do some simpler practice questions before they move onto a puzzle or problem that needs more unpicking. Other children may feel confident with an aspect of maths, so go straight for the problem or puzzle.

It was really good to see that children picked the right level of challenge for them and on talking to the children, it was clear that they felt in control of their own learning and felt that they had ownership. One child said that he liked choosing the level of challenge because he could work at his own pace and on receiving feedback, quickly move on or do some more practice. For me, listening to learners and talking about the process of learning is the key to unlocking learning potential. By always actively listening to what the children around me say, I have learnt that everyday brings new insights to different ways to change and shape the learning journey of children at Unsworth.

On Tuesday I travelled to Sheffield with Mrs Reynolds to listen to Dame Alison Peacock (Head teacher of The Wroxham School) talk about her school and its approach to enriching children’s learning journeys to ensure they meet their full potential. Listening to the stories about different learners from the school made me reflect on different learners I have encountered over the years and how their needs have helped shape Unsworth as a school. Dame Alison talked about the fact that  it is so important for children to have the opportunity to work towards being whatever they want to be. In assembly this week the children talked about the value of “freedom” and for me children need the freedom in the classroom to access irresistible learning that makes them listen to learn from the experiences they have, whilst the adults around listen to them as learners and design learning that makes their aspirations a possibility.

It is a powerful thought to think that through actively listening to sometimes the smallest of comments or taking on board the expression on someone’s face, changes can be made to a task, challenge or situation that really can make a difference. One boy this week in year 2 demonstrated this when he said during our discussion about our learning windows:

“Mr Rhodes, I think its really good when one of the other children on my table talks to me about my window, because sometimes they understand how hard I have been trying and it makes me feel good about myself.”