It's been a while since I've had a good old rant on my favourite (education -related!) ranting topic! So here goes...
We are six months in to using the new Primary Language Curriculum.
Has it improved my teaching?
Has it changed how I teach?
Has it increased the time I've spent on fortnightly plans?
I'm pretty much still following the structure I spoke about on here last June.
I pick 2 (sometimes 3) Learning Outcomes to "focus" on per fortnight for Reading, Writing and Oral Language and I also have an "Incidental Teaching" box for all the things outside of that. I choose my LOs by looking at the content I had planned for that week in my long term plan and look through the LOs and Progression Steps to see if I could match them up. I had made a "tracker" so that I could keep an eye on which LOs I was focusing on at different times. I put in the letter and the bit of the progression step I'm "focusing" on. I find it useful to see at a glance which ones have been covered well/ which ones need some attention. I'm hoping, going forward, having this tracker will give me an idea of how to structure/ when to focus on the different LOs.
But, it is all so subjective. You're feeling around for where your class roughly are. They could be anywhere from a to e in any given outcome.
I know on the second language day they rowed back completely on the use of progression steps and I've heard talk they are to be scrapped entirely but ultimately they are the content of this curriculum. The only way I found I could get anything half logical down on paper was to pick a part of a progression step and detail underneath it the exact content I was teaching that fortnight that fulfilled that particular step. Anything outside of that, I put into the incidental teaching box.
At the moment, I'm teaching pretty much the same content that I've been teaching every year since I moved to Infants, I'm just presenting it differently in my short term plans. It's very bitty doing it this way as regards choosing Learning Outcomes. I don't like it and I'm 99.9% sure it's not the correct approach. I know, of course we should be planning using the curriculum.
With any subject, you start with the curriculum and you plan with that before adding any resources or workbooks or content. As we have been given zero guidance on how to do a long term plan (bar obviously the disastrous and utterly unworkable NCCA samples), it is up to each person to decide how they are going to tackle it.
I have my long term plan laid out in a grid so I know what content I'm covering every week of the term. It's the method that works for me and I'm going to stick with it until someone tells me to change. During a WSE a few years ago, an inspector told me that your longterm plan should be laid out in such a way that if you broke your leg in the morning, a sub should be able to come in, look at your plans and say OK, this is what we're doing this week. That has always stuck with me so all of my longterms are laid out week by week in grid format.
(And before I get messages asking, no I don't sell my plans. I have no problem with people buying or selling plans, it's just not for me. I have no problem giving a snapshot of my plans here and there, but they are plans for my class and the programmes that I'm using with them.)
The only mention of the PLC you will see in my long term is Phonological Awareness. I like how this is laid out in the curriculum and working through it is possible and logical. Should there be more than that? I would never have had curriculum objectives in my long term plans (bar an overview at the beginning) so do the LOs/ Progression steps have a place in Long Terms?
The same inspector I mentioned above told me that if he wanted to read lists of curriculum objectives, he'd read the curriculum and there was no need for them in long term plans. But should they feature somewhere if we're going to teach them effectively? Certainly in Oral Language, it seems like you would need a structure, a plan of how you as a class or school are going to ensure the children are achieving the learning outcomes.
Reading and Writing learning outcomes to me, are a bit more easily achieved because those are skills that we are explicitly teaching and have always taught. They are just written down and presented in a different way now.
Oral language, of course, we have always taught to some degree, but the PLC puts much more emphasis on it and lays out in the progression steps what exactly the children need to be able to do which requires more specific, directed teaching that maybe wasn't emphasised as much before this curriculum.
I thought that by using one of the shiny, new Oral Language Programmes that came out last year, my Oral Language teaching would be sorted for the year and I would be happily ticking all the boxes, no stress, That is not the case. Now don't get me wrong, there are positives to the programme. The children love the interactive posters, love the games. It gives way more inspiration for Aistear then I as a teacher could ever give; conversations that happen at a funfair/ in a garden centre/ at the post office that are natural and can so easily transfer to the roleplay area!
But... according to the plans which are, to be fair, very comprehensive, they cover every learning outcome every fortnight. So you're still left looking at it, trying to decide what you're going to focus on and you're obviously tied to the content. Some activities/ themes tie in very well to something like categorisation. But others don't. So if you had decided you were going to focus on categorisation in January, and you go looking at January's themes and find there may be a very loose link, but not one you could write down in a plan and seriously expect anyone to believe. So then you think, well ok, I'd better focus on something else that has a bit more meat in it and makes more sense for this fortnight. Or do you ignore the programme content from that fortnight and go searching for something that will enable you to focus on categorisation properly? Then you get back to what I said above about the whole thing being so bitty.
Saying all that, I can only speak for the programme that I am using. I have no idea what the others are like. I would love to hear how people are getting on with whichever one they are using.
I saw a teacher on Instagram the other day (apologies I can't remember who it was) and she had made this lovely little poster to specifically teach and work on one of the oral language Learning Outcomes and I just thought, yes, this is what we should be doing! I on the other hand am finding myself tied to the content, making sure the pages in the workbooks get done and yes, of course, touching on the LO while covering the content but not really and truly and specifically spending time teaching that skill.
So then, do we ditch these lovely colourful oral language schemes and every single one of us go and reinvent the exact same wheel and every one of us trawl though twinkl, or spend money on Mash or TeachersPayTeachers to buy games and packs and activities to help us teach a specific progression step or Learning Outcome? Is this what the NCCA expect us to do?
Bottom line is we need to hear FROM THEM. We need them to decide how we are to implement this curriculum, what they expect us to have as regards paperwork? This radio silence from them and letting us all just float around in the unknown asking friends and colleagues if they have any clue what they are doing (to which the answer is invariably no) is madness. Next September, our Senior colleagues are going to be landed into the exact situation we faced this year and there will have been ZERO progress. No one will be any the wiser. No one will be able to tell them, with confidence, this is how you do it. The blind continuing to lead the blind. No help, no guidelines. (though to be fair to PDST, they are trying their best).
I am muddling through this. I don't feel I am doing a particularly good job of it. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that! I am sure that there are teachers out there who understand it better and have embraced it more. If anyone would like to write a post about how they are getting on with it - positive or negative, I'd be happy to post it!
I've been teaching Senior Infants now for 4 years and in that time I've done a few posts about Literacy Stations so rather than making another post about stations I'm just combining and updating the ones I've done previously as I often end up using the same ideas again and again! Some stations will require a teacher/ adult, others can be done independently!
This resource was made by Karen Jones on teacherpayteachers.com. Senior Infants need so much practise with CVC words but I wanted to find a way of them working with CVC words without necessarily having to write them out so I was delighted when I found this! I headed off to trawl the pound shops to find the cheapest baking trays I could find and spent a few hours printing and laminating. I decided to print and laminate and magnetic tape the letters of the alphabet too which added to the workload considerably but it meant that the letters were in the pre-cursive font that the children are used to and also it meant I didn't have to go and spend a lot of money on buying multiple sets of magnetic letters. The lovely box they live in was something I had myself that I used to store crafting materials in but I'm sure you'd pick up a box in one of the pound shops with enough sections etc for the letters! There are also other products you can buy on TPT with the blends which may prove useful as the year goes on.
Four years later and I'm still using this resource. I often use it early in the year and focus on CVC words and word families and then bring it out again later in the year when they have more covered in Jolly Phonics and can use it to practise and consolidate vowel blends and alternative sounds as they appear in Jolly Phonics. It's only now after four years of use that the laminated letters are beginning to show signs of wear and tear which really isn't bad! If there is an adult available to work at this station, it probably is best, but I do use it as an independent station.
As you may be aware, World Mental Health Day is this Wednesday 10th October. There are loads of lovely resources, especially for older classes with the Headbomz book and Walk in my Shoes resources but mental health as a topic can be a more difficult topic to approach with Infants as we obviously need it to be age appropriate for them.
Twinkl to the Rescue!
Twinkl, as usual have risen to the occasion! They have some lovely powerpoints and display packs on feelings, taking care of ourselves and an age appropriate powerpoint on mental health. (Click on images for links!)
As well as the absolutely endless supply of mindfulness colouring!!
I like the idea of "Walk in my Shoes" so you could get a shoe template like this one and get them to use their favourite colours/ draw their favourite things/ draw things they find difficult and it would make a lovely display!
There is a little collection of books, written by Louise Shanagher which are a really lovely way of exploring feelings, anxiety and mindfulness for children aged 4-8. Also, some really nice ideas and resources to go with the books!
These "Peace Out" are guided relaxation activities on the Cosmic Kids Yoga Youtube channel. They are really lovely!
I'm using the Rainbow Oral Language Scheme this year so I'm trying to arrange as much of my SESE as possible around these themes too! I came across two lovely videos that would work well for contributing to this theme or possibly do as a history lesson!
CBeebies - My First Funfair