Category Archives: Active Learning

Whose Town?

Whose Town? is an innovative resource for teaching social studies. A fun and interactive digital resource which brings Edinburgh’s history to life, it has been made available to all Glow users.  It can be found in the Whose Town? Glow Group and accessed from the Glow National Site notice board. The resource is built on the City of Edinburgh’s heritage collections and is linked to the Curriculum for Excellence second, third and fourth levels.

Whose Town? looks at Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s past from 1850s to the 1950s through the eyes of people who lived there. There are 14 real lives to discover – people who lived in Victorian times, at the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Second World War and in the Fifties. Archival material is collected in a digital box and hidden in an attic for pupils to uncover and examine. Each life is captured at a particular point in history, creating a snapshot of their life: a Life in a Box.

Whose Town? features two lives with direct connections to East Lothian. Florence grew up in an affluent Victorian household and enjoyed holidays at the West Pans seaside with her family. Luca Scappaticcio arrived in Scotland from Italy at the turn of the twentieth century and settled in Musselburgh where he established what is now S. Luca’s of Musselburgh.

There are over 450 unique and original documents in digital format for topic and skills based work. Maps, newspaper articles, photographs, objects, documents, video and audio clips and even the bits and bobs that everyone collects are all used to bring the histories of the fourteen real lives to life. Whose Town? also contains a wealth of support materials for teachers from lesson plans to ideas on how to use archival materials in the classroom.   

For more information or to request a free Whose Town? CD contact the Digital Information Team at Central Library in Edinburgh on 0131 242 8047. You’ll also find a wide range of supporting mat

Jack and the Giant

P2P at Sanderson’s Wynd have published an eBook on Amazon. Nigel Bird has kindly agreed to share how this came about…

What have you been doing?

At the beginning of the school year, staff at Sanderson’s Wynd were given a talk by Learning Unlimited about the Curriculum For Excellence. Among the ideas shared was one for a storyline project. It was an inspiring presentation and lifted some of the gloom that had been building with regard to the curriculum changes.

Not long after, one of our teachers approached our head-teacher and suggested that our school could embrace the idea of storyline with a project during the five-week block after Christmas.

Accommodating as ever, our head-teacher agreed. From there, the idea was presented to the staff and was accepted with a wave of enthusiasm.

It wasn’t long before the idea took on shape.

For the nursery and Primaries 1 to 3 the idea was to be that Story-land had been destroyed and that the children would need to help by recreating a world of fairytales in their classrooms.

For Primaries 4 to 7 there would be the task set for them by the mysterious Keeper Of The Keys.

A room was set aside to store resources and everyone was sent away with the brief to go with the children’s ideas; staff must have sat down to their Christmas lunch with butterflies in their stomachs, the kind of that tickle with excitement one minute and trepidation the next.

My job was to take on the role of ‘The Keeper Of The Stories’. With my faithful dragon (Dragon) I had to tell the P1 to P3 children that Story-land had disappeared and that I was homeless (don’t worry, folks, it turned out I was soon to be housed at IKEA). Getting the children to suspend their disbelief seemed crucial; I was amazed at how willingly they did so as I talked to them through my false beard. My job had been made easier by the line of fairy-lights, flowers and dragon’s footprints along the corridor to the hall.

Each class was presented with a scroll telling them which story they had to recreate and off they went to decide what they were to do. Our nursery worked on a range of fairytales and the Hub had a castle theme. It was a similar story for the older children who were set a challenge by ‘The Keeper Of The Keys’ in poem form.

In what ways does this practice relate to Curriculum for Excellence?

From the point of the children returning to their classrooms, it was up to them how they used their ideas.

Clearly the teachers needed to have ideas of directions in which they might head, but it was pretty much over to the children to make the decisions. Themes included The Gingerbread Man; Goldilocks and the Three Bears; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; The Selfish Giant; Jack and the Beanstalk; Sleeping Beauty; Castles; Giants; Shrek; and Harry Potter.

Where the projects went next is far too diverse to explain here. A visit to the school blog will help to fill you in if you are interested. I did see giant spectacles, tiny fairies, castle hearths, French chateaux, beautiful collections of stories, a wishing well, sherbet experiments, sculpture, swords, all things Shrek, baking, porridge and a gingerbread man who kept making a break for it.

What were the reasons for doing this?

In P2P I had been involved with supporting some of the children with their work. Their theme was Jack and the Beanstalk and so I counted beans, added with beans, mind-mapped using Kidspiration and worked on character studies. I saw the classroom transformed (as indeed the whole school was) with illustrations based on Joan Eardley, beanstalks growing around pillars, cows popping up from nowhere, compost pots, clouds and castles.

Throughout the project, the class worked on recreating the story of Jack in one big story looking at punctuation and the use of ‘interesting words’.

I came to hear about the story in one of those moments in the coffee queue one morning break. I was also full of beans of myself having just released a collection of stories at Amazon entitled Dirty Old Town.

Somehow the two pieces of life fused and the idea was born – we could turn the story into an ebook, sell it to the parents and anyone who was interested, connect with the world, show the children a new range of skills, give them a real sense of achievement and raise money for charity at the same time.

It took about 30 seconds for the idea to become solid and Karla, being an enthusiast, consummate professional who has the ability to take on anything new with an easy grace, was immediately thinking ahead. Along with her teaching partner, Fiona-Wilson Beales, we were about to go where not many school children have been before.

We had a lesson about creating the book. Children had to decide on a title and think about how the cover was going to look. We considered the size, positioning and colour of letters and asked them how they felt about the idea. They felt great.

What has happened as a result?

The children now have an understanding of just how well-connected the world is when technology is used. Reviews and comments have already come in from unexpected places.

The children have a sense of the purpose of writing.

Families in the area will be able to share the work and heap praise onto the book’s creators.

For those who haven’t seen an ebook before, they’ve hopefully gone out of their way to download the Kindle App and now have access to a new world of stories and communities.

For some families it may be one of the few times a book has been truly shared and celebrated.

We can link with the eco-committee (no paper) and the global-citizenship committee (it’s all over the world).

The children feel very proud of themselves.

This is what the children said in their own words:

We have learned
…that we can make model castles out of cardboard. Kira
….about plants at the Botanic Gardens. Nathan D
…that beans grow with soil, water and light. Ross
…how to make a bean graph. Sam M.
…how trees grow at the Botanic Gardens. Arron
…how to write a story and you have to put in full stops at the end of the sentence and capital letters at the beginning of a sentence. Alex
…that Jack and the Beanstalk is a great topic! Sam W.
…to make an ebook and it’s for sale on Amazon. Connie
…about Jack and the Beanstalk. We built a castle and Jack’s cottage. Molly
….how to plant beans. Zoe
…how to plant magic beans. My bean was the first to germinate. Jason
…about growing magic beans and measuring them with a ruler. Adam
…that Jack and the Beanstalk was missing from Fairyland and we had to recreate it. Emma
….about the characters from Jack and the Beanstalk. Aimee
…about creating the characters of Jack and the Beanstalk with interesting words. Nathan G.
….about Jack and the Beanstalk. Curtis
…about how to create an even better Jack and the Beanstalk because I put in more wow words. Callum
….to use more connecting words in my story. Aidan
…how to make cakes with real vanilla beans. Scarlett
…what a vanilla plant looks like and that rainsticks are made from cacti. Mrs Pearce

The children in P2P have decided to donate any funds raised to charity. The charity Save The Children was chosen as a response to hearing about Jack’s life in poverty. This dove-tails nicely with work the class will be doing soon in relation to Article 27 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

If you’d like to help, you can shell out your 71p on Jack And The Giant by visiting here.

Leave a review if you can – it will only boost the class even further.

And if you don’t have a Kindle, fear not. You can download the App – it’s free and easy to download by looking to the right hand side of the screen and following the ‘Read books on your computer or other mobile devices’ when you get to our book.

What would you do differently next time?

Give the topic more time. It had five weeks because it was an experiment. The themes were so rich that they could have gone on for longer.

A questionnaire has gone out to staff to feedback – any major issues will be posted with the article.

Thank you so much to Nigel and P2P for sharing. You can find out more on their own blog by clicking here.

Effective classroom strategies for closing the gap

An interesting new report has been published by the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO) with the full title “Effective classroom strategies for closing the gap in educational achievement for children and young people living in poverty, including white working-class boys“.

The news release states:

Effective Classroom Strategies For Closing The Gap In Educational Achievement For Children And Young People Living In Poverty, Including White, Working Class Boys looked at the international research on “what works” in improving learning outcomes for children in poverty. The review focused on strategies and interventions to improve core literacy and numeracy across early-years, primary and secondary settings. It found that there are a number of approaches that can help. These include:

  • Improving the quality of teaching by coaching staff in specific teaching strategies;
  • Using evidence-based approaches, such as co-operative learning, structured and systematic approaches to teaching phonics and “learning to learn” strategies;
  • Whole-school improvement packages which address multiple elements of school provision; and
  • The use of well-specified, well-supported and well-implemented programmes incorporating extensive professional development.

Click here to download the full report.

Class Blogging

I noticed that the Primary 1 Blog at Gullane Primary School was very active at the minute so I decided to get in touch with their teacher Mr Dagger to find out why they blogged…

What have you been doing?
I’ve been writing a class blog about things we’ve been up to in Primary 1.

In what ways does this relate to Curriculum for Excellence?
I think that the blog allows the children to share their success in school at home. Also I feel it covers ‘I enjoy exploring and using technologies to communicate with others within and beyond my place of learning’ (TCH 0-04a) quite nicely!

What were the reasons for doing this?
It’s a way to communicate to parents what their children have been doing in school. By looking at the blog with their parents the children are able to talk about what they have been learning about in school. Sometimes I write the posts with the children, so they are keen to look at the pictures at home. The blog also links to the children’s learning logs, which they take home every Friday. I often comment that a piece of learning a child has written about can be found on the blog.

What has happened as a result?
I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from parents. They enjoy using the blog to stimulate discussion at home about what their children have been doing. The comments left are brilliant to share with the class, and allow me to assess what the children have remembered about activities we have undertaken. This encourages them to ask their parents to look at the blog again and leave more comments!

What would you do differently next time?
I think it’s an ongoing, evolving process. Last year I had a separate page called Onion’s Patch which I had big plans for, but never got round to getting it up and running properly. I think I am going to try again this session. Also the class have been writing notes for my dog to read ever since I posted a picture of him in the snow. I was thinking about posting pictures of him with their work – to encourage independent, spontaneous writing in class, and engage more reluctant writers.

Thanks to Mr Dagger for sharing!

If you haven’t got a blog going with your class, perhaps it’s something to think about? You can sign up to eduBuzz here.

If you’d like to share your interesting practice go ahead and download the form

Inspiring CPD

We all know that CPD doesn’t have to equal courses. We can learn a lot through dialogue with our fellow professionals, however the nature of our working week often prevents us from doing enough of this. This is were blogs can come in. When teachers share what they’re doing online it can give the rest of us an insight into their world which can in turn inform our practice also.

I’ve recently discovered Wright’sRoom, which is an excellent example of this. Shelley Wright is a Biology teacher in Canada who has decided to radically change her approaches to learning and teaching and is sharing everything on her blog. These changes are very much inline with Curriculum for Excellence and are very inspiring. If you’ve not seen it yet, have a look…