Le Cafe au Nez Rouge on PhotoPeach
10th March 2013
A word about HATS Day last week. We have had many of these days now where the two schools get together for specific activities usually themed around something that is planned in our yearly calendar. For this HATS Day we had decided some time back that we would try and meet two particular experiences from CfE related to working as part of a team and recognising and utilising skills and abilities of your own or of others in your team. The day was planned in the middle of our literacy week so that gave us an initial focus to build on.
We wanted the children to work on a task as a team for the whole day. It was hard for staff not to go into organising mode, making suggestions, or planning the format of the day- that is what we do best. We agreed, after some discussion, on what the task would be and left it at that. The task was to produce some kind of publication- newsletter/magazine or similar as a house group.
In the preceding 2 weeks we had gone through the process of electing house captains and vice captains- from both Humbie and Saltoun. At assemblies we discussed leadership and the kind of qualities a good leader should have; candidates had put themselves forward and been given the opportunity to present their case to the members of their house; and a ballot was held- each child had one vote for their own house. I was impressed, as always, by the children’s thinking and opinions- they were very clear about what made a good leader. This included being fair, honest, brave, a good listener and able to talk to people. Those who put themselves forward had many good reasons for wanting to lead their house and expressed themselves well. Some children did not stand, saying that they had had a turn or knew that someone else in their house wanted to do it more then they did (would that politicians were so self-effacing). Everyone accepted the agreed voting process.
When the day came, the house (and vice) captains were given the task and off they went to tell their team what it was and to decide on how they would go about it. From talking to the children and adults afterwards, it seems like the hardest part was sharing out jobs in a fair way. We had given the children some cards with suggested job descriptions on them but that was really all the guidance they got. We were clear as a staff that the process was more important than the product.
I think the day was a great success- my impression of this comes from being in each room and watching the children work, talking to staff, listening to the children the next day, reading the evaluations they completed and looking at the publications they produced.
Ask your children what they thought- I imagine you will hear positive and negative comments. They told me what went well and what didn’t and, more importantly, what they could do about it.
I had fully expected them to say that they hadn’t enjoyed it as much as other HATS Days where they had been engaged in a variety of activities organised for them by adults. I was wrong- they enjoyed being in charge and able to make decisions for themselves, there was a team spirit in play, they were engaged in what they were doing and on task most of the time- if not they had some very strict project managers to answer to!
As well as the job descriptions mentioned, which were related to publishing- we had writers and contributors, proof-readers, editors, illustrators and more- I also saw in action: organisers, leaders, motivators, helpers, decision makers, arbiters. I think the staff achieved their intended outcomes and now we need to think- what next, how do we build on this, how do we extend the experience.
The children have asked for more of the same- that speaks for itself.
Have a good week- two to go!
3rd March 2013
Thanks to all of you who returned parents’ questionnaires. I will collate the responses and discuss them with staff. The exercise is part of our self-evaluation process and will be included in our audit of the year and our planning for the following year- this usually takes place on the in-service day in May.
A couple of parents commented on Curriculum for Excellence with regard to teaching of basic writing, spelling and numeracy skills. There may be some uncertainty about content and priorities of the school curriculum. Although CfE offers a broad spectrum of study, the core of the programme remains in Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing.
On most days in school, children will spend the morning working on maths and literacy. The two main reasons for this being that children (and particularly the younger ones) are more receptive in the morning and that we have most support in classes then too. We try to have two adults in each class in the mornings for this purpose- we could not manage this without the help of our parent volunteers.
Some of the learning around literacy skills or maths concepts may be done in the context of other curricular areas- social studies, science or religious education. A child may be learning skills in functional writing by compiling a report about a science experiment. Data handling may be learned and practised by collating information about preferences (e.g. favourite snacks), tallying these, producing graphs and interpreting results for a specific purpose- this could be part of a health topic, money unit in maths, research for an enterprise…..
I am sure you have noticed in the children’s profiles that maths and literacy come first and contain the most detailed breakdown of learning outcomes. This reflects the importance and priority we give to these subjects. They are after all the essential tools we need to begin to craft the rest of our knowledge and learning.
Similarly with Health and Wellbeing. Many of the outcomes here are related to school ethos and are visited daily in the course of classroom life. They are very hard to distinguish from the simple rules we need to get along with each other.
In 35 years of teaching I have experienced many curriculum changes. However, in all that time, the basic necessity to be able to read, write and count has not really altered in any way. Methods of learning to do so have changed and evolved, teaching practice has been subject to much scrutiny and debate, the content of courses of study has changed- sometimes radically. I have found many different ways to teach 8×7, but the answer and the need to recall it quickly remains the same. I hear tables being chanted in all classrooms and am glad of it. I hear teachers ranting about capital letters and full stops and applaud. I see red pen being used to underline errors in commonly used and learned words and I am happy that happens.
Some things never change and indeed have no need to do so. We will go on spending a sizeable proportion of the school day teaching your children basic skills to equip them for life.
Feel free to check my spelling.
Have a good week,