Friday, 17 February 2017

Year 5/6 whole-class reading plans

All my whole-class reading plans for year 5/6 (so far) in one place! (Just click the names of the books for the links.)



Click here for songs from OLIVER! the musical

I also have planning for Kensuke's Kingdom, but haven't uploaded it to TES yet as it's not fully complete! DM me if you'd like a copy anyway :)

Monday, 2 January 2017

Teaching Year 6 has changed me

I saw a tweet from someone (actually, more than a few people have tweeted something similar to this throughout the Christmas break - thanks, guys) about how there were only X teaching weeks left until SATs. "As if all year 6 is about is SATs?!" (which is something my old year-5-teacher-self would say). Turns out - actually, that's EXACTLY what it feels like. Year 6 is ALL about SATs.

There may be a few experienced year 6 teachers reading this thinking "no, she's got it all wrong", or, "it's really unhelpful to all prospective teachers/parents/children/the public that you're perpetuating this misconception" or something along those lines, but hey - I'm only in my 3rd year of teaching. This is my 1st year in year 6, and this is how I'M experiencing it. 

I have to admit, I've always wanted to be in year 6 - I've always wanted the challenge. My mum has been a year 6 teacher for god knows how long, my best friend is a year 6 teacher and I was in a year 5/6 team for the first two years of my career. (Odd the way that our school works - I had a mixed 5/6 class, but only taught year 5 maths and English). I guess I sort of felt like I WAS a year 6 teacher - I taught them in the afternoon - and was so close to my year 6 colleagues that I felt like I was going through the ups and downs (mostly downs) of mock SATs, SATs, results day etc with them. So when my HT asked me to move to year 6 last year, I was thrilled - I'd finally reached my favourite year group, and I'd be teaching a large amount of the same children that I'd had in year 5. Cushty, right? And it gets better - the way our school had chosen to group the classes this year (don't ask me to justify this), the children were streamed by maths ability and stayed in the same sets for English lessons. I would have top set maths and keep the same children for English - so basically, I would be teaching the "top half" of year 6 all morning. Simples!

Soon comes the inevitable, but still disheartening, meeting with the HT where year 6 targets (let's face it: school targets, not year 6 targets. The school is judged on what year 6 get at SATs, let's not beat around the bush here) were discussed. Most primary teachers will have experienced the "right, so this child is actually working at far below average, but because of their EYFS/KS1 results, they are supposed to make secure/expected/age-related/some other arbitrary edu-jargon or letter or code to supposedly mean "average" by the end of the year? HAHAHHA... oh... my pay depends on it... okay... are there any courses available to turn me into Super Teacher for this year?" moment with a member of SLT. This was far easier, I have to admit, last year, when I could submit a teacher assessment for the children at the end of the year based on lots of work over an extended period of time (as opposed to externally marked exams) - and hey, if they didn't FULLY understand a year 5 objective, well, they had a-whole-nother year to go, right? 

I'm not afraid to admit that last statement. Being in a year 5/6 team, I felt closely linked to year 6 last year, and fully (or so I thought) felt the responsibility of preparing the children for year 6 by giving them the solid year 5 foundations they needed. If they children didn't understand something, or didn't achieve an objective, I NEVER thought, "they've got another year to get this", because I knew what my year 6 colleagues had to do on top of that. 

Except I didn't know. You can't possibly know until you get into year 6 and feel the full responsibility for yourself. 

have post-its and scraps of paper coming out of my ears, full of names of children who didn't get this, who need going over that, who didn't get the full marks on Q4 of that assessment so I need to teach it to everyone. Again. And again. And again, just incase it comes up in SATs.

My partner teacher is great - we got all the children together at the beginning of the year and told them that we wouldn't be mentioning the word "SATs" at all before Christmas, and if we did, they would get awarded an extra minute's break-time! Some Tweachers said this was the wrong way to go about things - that this actually made SATs something TO worry about, rather than the intended opposite effect, and that if we'd just used the word casually from September then the children would get used to it. Or something. Who knows the right way to go about these things? Our children are happy and not at all stressed - they don't know that whilst our mouths may not be saying "SATs", our brains our muttering it over and over again.

My school is also great - when someone tweeted asking what year 6 would be doing in the afternoons this term, I replied quite innocently saying "thankfully NO extra maths and English!" I then read dozens of other responses listing the extra booster groups and revision sessions that schools would be doing, and some just full afternoons of maths or English. When that will inevitably stop after SATs, surely that is the wrong message to send to the kids?! Anyway, again, I'm new to this - so I don't know. 

But it's the dreaded percentages.

Those 2-digit numbers that judge a whole year's worth of schooling across four year groups - all based on five test papers sat across four days. 

In our school, as I'm sure is the same in many schools this year, there is huge pressure to increase our results this year. One in particular is close to my heart (as I'm sure you'll know if you've read any of my tweets regarding this!) - reading. 

"You must achieve X% in reading this year - but you must do it by teaching it in this specific way (carousel method, 5 different books etc.)"

"But this different method (whole-class) really works for my class, and I've got good data with it already..."

But in the name of (my LEAST favourite edu-jargon) #consistency... ***give me a moment to silently rage at that term*** ...that isn't allowed.

That % might have been achievable if I were allowed (subjunctive mood: another symptom of a year 6 teacher, picking out SPAG EVERYWHERE) to teach it how I wanted, but the pessimist in me (who is becoming increasingly more influential) tells me it's far less achievable when I'm told to teach in a style that doesn't suit me or my class. So: another hurdle. As if there weren't enough.

didn't plan this blog post - I have literally bled the words onto this page as I've thought them. It may be nonsensical, but I just wanted to give a brief (is this brief? I shall have to look back and see...) overview as to what year 6 feels like to me. Please bear in mind that this word vomit is also the result of my I've-had-2-weeks-off-and-done-no-work-and-now-I-have-to-start-worrying-about-school-urgh mindset - so, arguably, more "glass half-empty" than anything.

I guess my final thought is this: obviously, SLT, you want our results to improve this year. So do you want me to actually teach the kids, or teach them how to pass a SATs paper?

Because I'm beginning to think that they are mutually exclusive.


P.S. None of this has stopped me from wanting to teach year 6 again next year. I must be insane.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Life after 3.30 - a poem

Life after 3.30

Sitting in my classroom
In my natural habitat
Can't find the bloody highlighters
And where's my green pen at?!

It's not under the table
Look - that missing glue stick lid!
Those kids were meant to tidy up!
I wonder what they did?!

Well, I give up, can't find the green
I'll have to use red pen
Can't let them know I'm going against
The marking policy again...

Right, let's start this marking pile
Shit - why's that one first?!
Tip: when you start your marking
NEVER open with your worst.

So, what's my "next step" comment?
Well, where do I even start?! 
She clearly hasn't checked against
The success criteria chart.

Right, next book up - yes! Capitals
Are all in the right spot!
But wait - don't speak too soon
Because punctuation, they forgot.

Another book, more work to mark
Now this kid's in the know!
Oh look, that famous simile:
"It was as white as snow".

I'll use this as assessment
Cos I can't mark anymore 
Now I must decide:
Are they 'emerging' or 'secure'?

No-one can be 'exceeding' yet 
It's only Autumn 2!
For them to be 'exceeding' now
They must know more than you

Wait, what's lower than 'emerging'?
Is it 'developing' or 'below'?
Is there one below 'below'?
I mean, just how low can we go?!

I've done my grid - ah,
Look at all this data I have made!
Oops - I'll change this one
So he can meet his target grade.

Right, time to leave - oh joy!
I get to walk home in the dark.
Until I spot another pile
Of books I'm yet to mark...

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Sunday, 8 November 2015

PC V Panda

This blog is short and sweet.

This year, I've been given the role of SPAG coordinator as part of the English team. A huge part of the new English curriculum is grammar, and a huge part of that involves children knowing the word classes of the English language.

In KS2, children must know of all eight word classes, and I've come up with a quick acronym to remember these: 


I even whipped up a quick cartoon on Paint go alongside it - a panda in a policeman's hat with the name label "V" (as his name is Police Constable V Panda, of course). 

My Year 5s have responded well to this and now, since introducing him (or her?) almost a week ago, most of them can remember all eight without sneakily looking at my grammar wall!

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Monday, 26 October 2015

Our move to whole-class reading

From September this year, our four UKS2 classes changed from the typical carousel method of Guided Reading to a whole-class method.

Why we changed to whole-class

I've never been a fan of the carousel method (see my what you could call a "rant" here) so this was a welcome change for me! After experimenting with a few different ways of using carousel and failing to see sufficient impact/progress, I turned to the internet to see what everyone else was doing. My mum (@LMisselle1 - year 6 teacher of... forever) has been using the whole-class method for years, and has always sung its praises; however, I wanted to see how whole-class was approached by others - here's where @MrsPTeach comes in.

Mrs P's blog has been a *god send* throughout this whole process. If you are considering it, you must read these:

Our solutions to the problems with Guided Reading
Guided Reading and the new curriculum
How do whole-class reading lessons work?
Assessing reading in the 2014 primary curriculum (KS2)
Whole-class reading FAQs

I presented the idea to our two reading co-ordinators and our HT at the beginning of summer term last year. Our HT agreed we could trial it in the two year 5 classes and one year 3/4 class. Instantly, this was so much easier - instead of planning five books in detail for five groups in each class, my partner teacher and I shared the work of planning one book for both classes, which covered us for three weeks. In those three weeks, we studied a book in great detail, allowing all children to access the higher-level questions and hear modelled answers from the HA pupils. We also learnt how to construct a PEE paragraph as a way of constructing a high-level answer.

How it works for us

There are, of course, still a few bumps to be ironed out. But I (and I think the rest of my team) am loving it so far. There are four year 5/6 classes and we all use the same text/stimulus, so planning time and workload is massively reduced.

Our timetable couldn't accommodate the two one-hour reading lessons that Mrs P talks about in her blog, so we've had to adapt the method to suit us. We have daily 25-minute lessons, with Friday being a 'reading for pleasure' session.

The new assessment focuses (again, created by Mrs P) are displayed in all our classrooms and are referred to throughout the lessons: RT (retrieve), I (interpret), C (choice), V (viewpoint), P (perform) and RV (review). The children have already remembered what each "code" means - a lot easier than trying to remember arbitrary numbers and their relevance to the type of question being asked (AF1, AF2, AF3 etc.)

I made this document myself to clarify to my reading coordinators how these new "AFs" relate to the new curriculum.

Here are some extracts from a plan I've written for late next term - this is one for some of the songs from Oliver! (I thought it would be fun to learn some of the songs from the musical after we've studied the book!)

So far this year in our reading lessons we have analysed a newspaper article, poems, a fiction text and a video clip (the children loved this one - as the skill of decoding was removed, all children could access it from the same level and just focus on their skills of comprehension!)

A typical reading lesson

The lesson would start with a question about the children's learning the previous day, e.g. "Can you summarise Chapter 5 of Book X in five sentences?" or, "What do you think is going to happen next in the text?" or "Who can describe X and Y's relationship so far in three words?" or "Can you name five features of the layout of a newspaper article?" and so on.

We would then read the next section of text together on the carpet - a mixture of the teacher and students reading aloud and discussing and language the children don't understand. We then look at the questions of the day (displayed on the board), what they mean and how the children might answer them. (E.g. in the case of session 4 above, "This is an 'RT' question - what does that mean? Retrieve! So the answer is right there in the text somewhere, you've just got to find it!" etc.) The children then return to their tables to either continue reading before starting their work, or getting straight on with the questions.

My three lowest ability children work with my TA, who works through the same questions as us but with more support. I also take those three children once a week for a reading comprehension intervention, and one is also working with the SENCO on more focused phonics work. My point is that the whole-class method doesn't hinder the progress of my lower-ability students.

I have grouped my English class into four groups, and each day I take a different group to work with more closely. Again, we look at the same questions but we discuss how we could construct high level answers. I also ask them more questions around the text to check their understanding.

The 'extension' question/s are also displayed on the board so all children can have access to them. When studying The Railway Children at the beginning of term, we used an abridged version of the text, but for the extension task, we photocopied extracts from the unabridged version for the children to use. Alan Peat's (@alanpeat) Guided Reading questioning app has been brilliant for helping us think of higher-order questions for the extension.

Using this method, the children now have writing in their Guided Reading books every day, which is of a much higher standard than before, when they were only using their books for "time filling" tasks once a week.

The two extension tasks in this book above were to write the video clip as both a diary entry and as a play script. 

This is an example of independent work from one of my lower-ability students.

As you can see from these pieces of work, the children write the "assessment code" in the margin next to their answers. I then pink or green these codes depending on whether the children have understood the question/given a sufficient answer or not (this will help us when it comes to our assessment - which "codes" have been "greened" the most in each child's book?)

I try to mark their GR books every day - it is so easy to mark because every child has answered the same question. A class set of GR books takes me a maximum of 20 minutes to mark. (Funny story - I missed a day once, and a child said, "Oh Miss, why haven't you marked our books?" I apologised and explained how busy I was last night (marking their other books!) and another child said, "Don't worry, our Guided Reading books were never marked last year anyway!")

I can already see an improvement in the way the children are answering the questions now compared to the beginning of the year. Since they've realised I'm looking at their books every day, the quality of their writing and presentation has also improved.

Existing problems

Of course, this isn't the be-all and end-all of teaching reading. We are constantly adapting the way we do things, and will continue to do so until we are happy with everything. For me, there are currently two main issues:

1) Resources - it's fine when we're doing anything other than a book, as poems/newspapers/articles/reports rarely require much more than one piece of paper between two children. However, when it comes to narrative texts, we do not have enough for one class set (which would work if we rotated plans between the four classes), let alone four class sets.

2) Time - our GR sessions are supposed to be 25 minutes, but it often runs into our English lessons as we get so involved in discussing the text and allowing the children enough time to write developed answers.

Whole-class vs. carousel method

I know whole-class teaching of reading isn't for everyone. I've had a fair few discussions/debates on Twitter and some people swear by carousel - and if they can make it work for them, great! Here's a few more things I read before convincing my HT/reading coordinator to let us use the whole-class method across the whole of UKS2.

Guided Reading vs Whole-class Reading (opens as a PDF)
Looking Back to Move Forward with Guided Reading (opens as a PDF)
...did I mention Mrs P's blog? ;)

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Monday, 31 August 2015

5 ways to ease "first day nerves"

It seems that no matter how many years you've been teaching, you always experience some level of anxiety the day before the new year. Or new term. Or new week... (You may have seen the hashtag #sundayblues used by many teachers at the end of every weekend!)

I feel like this is particularly heightened for an NQT as you're jumping into what seems like unknown territory. However, this is what I do to calm my own nerves (which crop up A LOT, damn it), and I hope it helps you somewhat too.

1. Have a bath
This is an obvious one. Some people hate baths, but for me, there's nothing more relaxing than soaking amongst some bubbles with a bar of chocolate/glass of wine/cup of tea, watching a bit of Netflix or reading a book. A good way to calm jitters.

2. Listen to something calming
Personally, when I close my eyes and listen to the sound of rain (preferably real rain (although we've had enough of that recently) but I also have a rain sound machine and a few rain sound apps on my phone) I can physically feel myself calming down. I have no idea why, but it works. It may not be rain for you, but it could be the radio. I used to listen to plays at night time - concentrating on the story line forced me not to think about school as I fell asleep.

3. Look forward to something
I don't necessarily mean a specially planned weekend away (although that would be lovely!) - I'm talking on a much smaller scale. I tend to have a TV series on the go (at the moment, it's Grey's Anatomy - starting again from the beginning!) that I can look forward to watching each evening. I can always reassure myself that no matter how awful my day goes, no matter how nervous or worried I am now, there's a blanket, a cup of tea and a good programme waiting for me at the other end of the day. Every day! (Obviously this may be different for you - a good book, or even exercise. Personally, knowing I've planned to go for a run after school would feel me with more dread than reassurance - but each to their own!)

4. Play the "so what?" game with yourself
When @MissDlln tweeted asking for some tips about how to calm her nerves, it reminded me of some advice I received last year. When you're feeling nervous about something and you're not really sure why, ask yourself "so what?", answer your own question, and realise that nothing really has a bad enough ending to be that worried about. Of course you could force yourself down a negative route, but the point is to encourage some positivity. It goes a bit like this...

What if the kids don't listen to me?
So what? I'll follow the behaviour management policy.
What if they still refuse to follow instructions?
So what? I'll call a senior member of staff to deal with it.
What if they think I can't deal with my class because I've called them?
So what? I'm an NQT and I'm learning - they're not going to think bad of me for asking for help. After school I'll ask them how I should've dealt with the situation, although more than likely they will be happy to have helped.

Saying it out loud helps reaffirm things! Because really, you're worrying about nothing, and you will be fine.

5. Look at the big picture
You have trained for months, maybe even years, to be here now. This is what you've been looking forward to - having your own class in your own room. You wouldn't have passed your degree if you weren't capable. You wouldn't have got the job if the school thought you couldn't do it. You've had many placements doing this exact thing - you know you can do it. As soon as the children walk in, you will click into "teacher" mode and it will feel completely natural, as it always has done. Every other teacher has their own worries and will be busy doing their own thing - nobody will worry about the small mistakes you are worrying about making this year! Twitter is the best support network you could have, and if you have had a particularly bad day, there is no better place to vent about it or ask for advice than on there. Good luck and have fun - you will love it!

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Displays: what are they good for? (absolutely nothing?)

P.S. (Pre-script in this case, not post.) I wrote this whole blog post entitled, "Displays: what is really the point?", did a bit of research before I published it and found that David Didau (@learningspy) wrote a very similar one two years ago called, "What's the point of classroom displays?" which you can read here. So I adapted it a bit, and rather than regurgitating what David has said, this is more a showcase of what I have chosen to display on my walls this year. Or this term, at least. Please note that I do not think displays are "good for nothing" as said in the title (hence the question marks) - I just wanted to reference that song :)

When I was a student, I used to love doing displays for my mentors; it was a time to put on some music, relax and pull out my "artistic" side for an hour two. However, now, the idea of putting up displays makes me think of papercuts, a sore back, not being able to find the right size of bloody staple for the staple gun, putting a staple in too far so I can't pull it out, not putting it in far enough so a child could get their finger under it, running out of backing paper halfway through backing a board, only being able to find the most garish of backing paper/borders because apparently you were the last one to do your displays that term... you get the picture.

Our curriculum co-ordinator took a group of children on a "classroom display" learning walk a few months ago and asked their opinions on the displays around the school, particularly in their own classroom. The results were surprisingly negative, with one comment even saying that they "fade[d] into the background". Of course, being the reflective practitioner that I am (I almost feel as if I'm writing a supporting statement for a job all over again...), this really made me think about what exactly I'm putting up on my walls. 

Even though all the children asked said they "only looked once" at boards displaying children's work, even if it included their own, I do see the benefit. However, this year, I wanted to try putting something up on my all boards that the children will use as often as possible; I'll ask the children at the end of the term which they've found the most useful and adapt accordingly. An experiment, if you will :)

Please note - these horrendously lurid colours were the best of the worst left in the cupboard. I read somewhere that children work best in a calm environment, with the less distractions around them, the better, which totally goes against everything in any primary classroom you'll go into. If I was a professional blogger, I'd of course find the source of that little gem of noteworthy research, however, a) I'm not, b) I can't for the life of me remember where I read that, and c) I quite frankly can't be bothered to look.

Anyway, on to the displays...


I have been made KS2 SPAG co-ordinator this year, and this is one of my ideas to try and raise our spelling results. (Which I think is quite ridiculous, as I don't really believe you can teach spelling. You can either do it or you can't. But that's for another time.) Our school is open plan, and this display is on the wall that most of the children in years 5/6 walk through in my classroom. (By the way, for those that are wondering, spellings are taken from the Rising Stars spelling test scheme.)

 This is my reading corner. The display in the top right corner is called, "The imagination station..." (got a bit carried away there) and I'm hoping to put up pictures of the children doing "extreme reading" which will be their first bit of English homework :)

Close up of the Scrabble tiles on the radiator (not turned on!) - it annoyed me so much that there was no question mark that I nearly used a Sharpie on one of the other tiles to make my own.

 Not a display, just wanted to cover up a space. I printed/laminated/cut these last summer and never used them.

Again, not a display, but this is probably my most "looked-at" part of the classroom. Bar a few informative posters, most of them are just puns, and most of them are more for me than the kids. ("A dangling participle is something "up with which I will not put". - Winston Churchill" is my favourite!)


We started implementing the growth mindset language throughout the school last year and the children have really got on board with it. I had a huge board dedicated to it last year, but I opted for a slightly more subtle one this time. (I say subtle, I chose a gold border. That is subtle for a primary classroom.)

Some of you may have seen my "dictionary corner" display in my last classroom. I've adapted it a bit this time. Just need to add a few little bits on that left side because the assymetry is bothering me...
These are my synonym booklets hanging below the dictionary board.

This is missing the second half of the title - it should say, "Maths misconceptions". I just got SO bored of cutting out letters. That will have to be an INSET day job.
Some sneaky teacher has already written on it... the cheek!

I like having these reminders around (mainly for me).

Children use these a lot.

This is the view from the back of the classroom. My last classroom was incredibly small (it wasn't originally intended to be a classroom) so I'm excited to have a room with carpet space!

View from the side. (I'm standing in the walk-through corridor - it is an open plan classroom.)

Not really sure what I want to use this whiteboard for as it's at the back of the classroom. I'm thinking a working wall, but for now it's going to serve as a book recommendations wall. If you have any brilliant ideas, please let me know!

Please ignore the broom. Cleaners haven't been in...
I'm very lucky to have a little "well" off of my room with a set of computers (which can be used by any of the four classes in our team) and a desk for my TA. That room in the left is the UKS2 art storage cupboard.

Another view inside the well (TA desk on the right).

Now, one display I did really want to put up was one suggested by Andy Hind (@andyhind_ES4S - he's an educational consultant who's led some of the brilliant training I've been on) - a "reflection wall". This would consist of putting a particular LO of the week in the middle (on a whiteboard) with questions such as these around the edge: 
What helped you when something got tricky about learning to... (LO)?
What do you need more help with about learning to... (LO)?
How would you change this activity for another group/class who were learning to... (LO)?
... and so on.

Perhaps another time. Now, less time putting up pretty bits of paper, more time teaching those pesky children!

Find me on Twitter @_MissieBee (previously @Miss_RQT)