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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. It's only fair to...

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Windows to learning

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...

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Nurturing creativity

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.   It's only fair to...

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Being a good learner

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.   It's only fair to...

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Working Together

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...

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Where does inspiration come from?

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...

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