29 Days of Writing

2016-02-28 18.27.12

So that’s it then. Day 29 has arrived and I have managed to post something everyday!

It has been a bit of a struggle on occasion. The evenings where I had parents evenings and didn’t really want to come home and have to spend time writing even for a short time were difficult. It hasn’t been easy to find things to write about either although there was always inspiration to be found by reading other people’s entries in @Staffrm. Most of my burblings have disappeared without trace although a couple have obviously resonated with people on Twitter and been retweeted which was nice. I wasn’t looking for an audience but it is rewarding when you get a response that tells you that some one else feels the same way.

I have enjoyed doing the challenge just for the discipline of getting myself to write every day. I used to write all the while when I was younger but now the only writing I seem to do is in pupils’ books. It has been good to organise my thoughts and set them down in a semi-coherent manner.

Doing the challenge has also introduced me to a whole range of other people whose writing I have enjoyed over the past month. I have particularly enjoyed reading posts by @chrischivers, @JulesDaulby, @thatboycanteach and @rondelle10_b to name but a few. There were lots of other individual entries that I enjoyed reading and commenting on.

I am glad that the 29 days is over but will definitely try to write more often than I had been doing. Maybe I will manage the one a week challenge beginning in March. Watch this space!

2016-02-28 18.30.06


A picture a day

As part of #teacher5aday, I decided to take a photo every day. I liked the idea of capturing something different everyday and having a record of the year to look back on. January was difficult. Going to work and coming home in the dark severely restriced photo opportunities. However February has been easier to find things that I wanted to keep a record of. I have been storing my photos on Flickr and it’s fun even at this stage to look back at the photos that I have taken so far.


These are some of my favourite photos of the past month:

Feb 18th

I love this picture of the sunlight coming through the trees at the bottom of my garden. It looked prettier in real life but the photo sort of captures the feel of the morning.

Feb 15th
Feb 15th

This was taken on a walk on the first day of Half term. I loved the way the catkins were almost glowing in the sunshine.

Feb 23rd.jpg
Feb 23rd

I really love the way the clouds reflect the sunlight early in the morning and in the evening.This was taken at about 5 o clock. The colours were so vivid that it was just begging to be photographed.

I haven’t taken today’s photograph as I am waiting for inspiration to strike  but I’m sure that I will find something.



Music and Memories


Day 27 and this is my contribution to the current crop of music blogs in #29daysofwriting. Thanks especially to @thatboycanteach who posted details of his half term listening on Twitter and got me thinking about special songs.

Music has always been part of my life. My earliest memories are of listening to music with my parents and we always had the radio on at home. My mum used to love Noel Edmonds on the breakfast show! But then she likes Neil Diamond as well so there’s no hope really. She and my Dad have always brought records with a collection that included Wings, Elvis, The Carpenters, Big Bands and Glenn Miller so I grew up listening to lots of different stuff. Anything but classical in fact.

Songs are closely linked to my memory. I only have to hear certain songs and I can remember specific times and events from my dim and distant youth. These are some of the songs that have formed part of my life.

Blockbuster by The Sweet was the first single I ever bought. I really loved that whole era of glam rock. Killer Queen is another song that takes me back to my secondary school years as is Joybringer by Manfred Man. I remember listening to that song in the early 70’s when we were only at school part time because the new school building wasn’t ready in time so we couldn’t all fit in the existing building at the same time. That must have been a real nightmare for the poor Head Teacher.

Joan Armatrading’s I’m not in Love takes me right back to New Year’s Eve 1976 and the Railway pub. It was my first real night out in a pub with a group of friends and ended with my being over the moon because I had been asked out!!! Adult life felt as though it had really begun. Hearing the song now still brings back that feeling of nervous excitement that seemed to fill my teenage years.

You don’t bring me flowers by Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand always reminds me of my Grandfather’s funeral. I had this song running through my head all that day so it is always linked to feelings of sadness. My Grandfather’s death was the first time I had lost a close relative and so his funeral had a big impact on me. I always regret the fact that I didn’t spend more time with my grandparents when they were alive.

Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark and Meatloaf Bat out of Hell are my early years with my ex husband when we always dance madly at parties. It’s nice to remember that there were good times before we separated.

Sinatra’s New York, New York reminds me of my wedding 6 years ago. It was the last song played although it wasn’t on the playlist that I had given the DJ. When I hear it, I go right back to the dance floor at the Marriott Hotel where all our friends and relatives were on the dance floor dancing and singing along. It was a song that really summed up the whole day and how great it had been.

These are just a few of the songs that are so closely linked to my memories. What songs trigger memories for you.



Dedication or just daft?

Yesterdays post by @rondelle10_b on the subject of teachers going when they’re ill made me think.  http://staffrm.io/@byusuf/1xzWxhCort

This was also partly because we had a member of staff this week who did exactly the same thing.

Why do some teachers feel that they have to go in no matter how ill they feel and does it happen in other professions?

I suspect that in every walk of life you will always get those people who feel that they are indispensable and that the world will grind to a halt without them. They don’t want to take time off for illness as they feel (or want t0 feel) essential to whatever their job is. I am not suggesting that my colleague is one of those people but they certainly do exist

However I think that teaching is slightly different. In at least some other jobs, if you aren’t there to do your work, it will either be done by someone else or it will still be there waiting for you on your return. Your colleagues may have to work a bit harder to cover your absence but things generally sort themselves out. As an ex insurance underwriter, I know that this can be the case.

For a teacher, with a class of children waiting to be taught, it could be slightly different. Colleagues may have to lose their precious ppa time to cover your absence or the class may be taught by a supply teacher. Sadly, supply teachers, especially those booked at short notice, do vary hugely in quality. I remember vividly the horrified look on a supply teacher’s face when I gave her the maths plan for Year 6 as she informed that she was a secondary art teacher and very poor at maths. On that occasion the TA actually taught the lesson!

There are also the classes that you know react badly to supply teachers. When you have spent the whole year working on behaviour management, you don’t want to have it all undone by a teacher who isn’t able to keep control in the same way. The prospect of what the class could be like on your return can be alarming. We care about the children that we teach and don’t want them to be badly taught or their behaviour to deteriorate.

Knowing that this situation and other similar ones can occur makes us possibly feel that our presence is more essential that it actually is. I  think that I have been guilty of it in the past but have become a bit more realistic about what I am capable of when I am ill and am more likely now to take the time that I need.

We need to make sure that we look after ourselves and our colleagues. It isn’t helpful to yourself or the people around you to come to work when you are ill.


Plant Life Cycle Foldable

I happened to have a look at the stats for my blog yesterday and noticed that one of my most visited posts is the one the that I posted in Jan 2013 – A Food Group Foldable
Despite being posted over 3 years ago, it still receives over 10 visits a month which may not sound like a lot but I thought that it would have disappeared into oblivion.

So I thought today’s post could be my latest addition to my foldable family


This one is a foldable to explain the different stages of a plant life cycle.

I like using foldables in different subject areas to give the children some variety in the way they present their work. The hexagon worked so well with Year 5 and their food topic that I felt that it was worth repeating in Year 6 for plants.


The children who don’t enjoy writing enjoy the foldables as the space is limited and so they don’t feel pressured to write more than they want to. My more able writers who have to more to say are able to squeeze a surprising amount of writing into a very small space.

I think that being able to record things in a different format does give some children a bit more enthusiasm for a task. What different ways do you record in books?

Marvellous Medieval Day


Today we had a complete break from routine as Jed returned to school with the ‘Up and At em’ History team. This is the third time that Jed has come to us and created a History day. In 2014 we had a replica WW1 trench set up in the hall for the day and last year we all re-enacted the siege of Leicester as part of our Civil War day. Today, the focus was on wicked King John and the signing of the Magna Carta.

We had an introductory assembly telling us what the day would involve then the three members of the group all took different year groups to tell and show them what  life was like in the Middle ages. A lot of my Year 6’s were surprised to find out how hard life actually was for most people 800 years ago. Jess’s descriptions of how the local ‘wise woman’ might treat injuries and ailments were quite graphic but the children still all wanted to volunteer to be a patient!

Sir Richard explained what it meant to be a knight and showed us the equipment that might have been worn. Finally, at the end of the day, Jed told us about the signing of the Magna Carta and how the country nearly ended up falling into the hands of the French had it not been for the loyal knight, Sir William Marshall.

Sir Jed of Melton

The day was quite hectic as we had to move from one activity to the next and it must have been really tiring for Jed, Richard and Jess who worked through the day with only a short break. The sessions were only short as we wanted all of the children to experience everything and as we are a large school, that can be quite difficult. However each session was full of information with lots of props and details to hold the children’s interest.


It was a great day where the children learned a lot in a really enjoyable way and we’ve ticked at least part of the History curriculum box (although that is purely incidental!)  We’re already looking forward to next year’s History day.

The Writing Challenge


Not being optimistic about any further action being taken to make the new writing standards more accessible, it’s time to work out how to help my children to achieve them. We have decided to do this in exactly the same way as we do everything else. One step at a time.

When the writing standards were produced in November last year, I created target cards for my pupils with all of the expected objectives on. These were given out in January and we explained to the pupils that these were the expectations that had to be met by May but stressed how far away that was. We also stressed that we didn’t expect anyone to achieve all or even most of them in any one piece of work. And so gradually, we began to chip away at the objectives.

We began with the things that they were already quite good at such as using fronted adverbials. Very quickly nearly all the children got ticks in the relevant box and so we moved the focus onto the next achievable objective.

Monday’s writing task was to write a story including dialogue. We used a picture prompt from Pobble 365 which we have used before to good effect. When I began marking the stories last night, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the children’s writing. Even my SEND children are showing clear progress.

Over the rest of this term and next, we will continue to chip away at the objectives. We will reteach where necessary and carry on looking for examples of things such as the use of the passive voice in real texts to show the children how they can be used. We are also doing lots of oral work where they use a sentence as a model to create their own. Games such as creating silly sentences with random word combinations work well for this.

I have told my pupils to focus on objective at a time eg In your next paragraph, can you include a relative clause. Hopefully by the end of May, we might possibly have the evidence needed to say that they are writing at the expected standard.

It might seem a bit like writing by numbers and looking for features rather than the quality of the writing and in some ways it is like that.

However, I prefer to think of it as part of a long term project. I am going to try and give my pupils all the tools that they need to write well and I am really hoping that my colleagues in secondary school can take those tools and really show the children how they can used to the very best effect.

Little things


Today should have been a bad day. Mondays are never good for me. I begin the week with playground duty and then have to do KS2 assembly as well so it’s full on for the entire morning with no break at all. Then we generally have SLT meeting after school. And after that I have to mark all my books!!!!

However today felt like a good day. There was nothing special but lots of small things all added up to it being a good day.

Firstly, it was light when I left home this morning. Days are really getting longer now which always makes me feel better.
Secondly, I drove to school without having to stop at junctions or traffic lights. Door to door in the space of one pop song on the radio always cheers me up.
Thirdly, staff at school seemed genuinely pleased to be there. Minor gumblings about half term going too quickly but lots of positive smiles and talking about what we were teaching today.
Fourthly, the children were happy to be back at school. The good thing about playground duty is the smiles and greetings from the pupils as they come into school. I was shown various pairs of new shoes and admired a range of new hair cuts this morning. That day to day contact with pupils and the way that they love to come and tell you details of their lives is one of the special things about Primary teaching in my opinion.

The day seemed to speed by and it was a day that went smoothly with both me and my class in a relatively good mood. Finally, the day ended well as there was no SLT meeting:-)

So a good start to the half term which I hope will continue.


A Proper Primary Education


This half term has been dominated by the anger and fury of the teaching profession at the new government requirements for Years 2 and 6 sparked by the publication of the writing exemplification last week. Over the week, the anger seems to have turned almost to despair. I think that many teachers have accepted that things won’t change and that we have to just get on with filling our pupils minds with as many grammatical terms as possible. There also seems to be an increasing feeling that this is going to impact on other subjects such as Art and Science. Blogs by @nancygedge
and @chrischivers
both make this point clearly.

This is one thing that I am determined to avoid if I possibly can.

We have only had Year 6 for 2 years prior to this academic year. Before that, our pupils transferred to secondary school at the end of Year 5 which was a situarion that was a nightmare for both schools and pupils.

When we managed to change our intake and get Year 6 back after many years, we vowed that we would not become one of those schools where Year 6 was just extended practice for Sats. We promised ourselves, pupils and parents that we would maintain our ethos and Year 6 would continue to be as interesting and have as broad a curriculum as we could possibly manage.

This hasn’t changed although it has been modified slightly. Our mornings are filled with English and Maths but afternoons remain free for the rest of the curriculum. Some children have lost some parts of an afternoon for interventions which I regret but cannot see a way around. However, we try to keep withdrawal from fouindation subjects to a minimum. The groups of children are rotated round frequently so that children don’t miss too much of any one curriculum area.

We still have a very clear focus on areas such as History, Art and Music. Year 6 are currently loving their art topic on buildings where we are looking at artists such as Hundertwasser and Gaudi. Our slippers project before Christmas was brilliant and sparked one pupil to make his own pair of slippers over the holidays as he had enjoyed the work at school so much. That is the real stuff that primary schools should be made of. Where teachers can inspire or interest pupils to do something that they would not otherwise have considered.


I will not let preparation for Sats take that away from my pupils. We will continue to do as much Art, Music, PE etc as we can possibly fit in. I want my children to remember Year 6 for all the interesting things that we did. If they remember the names of obscure grammatical rules, then that would be a bonus but it is not the reason that I am in teaching.


My Ideal Weekend

feb 13th.jpg
Saturday meal by candlelight

It’s the last weekend of the half term so I’m trying to make the most of it. Sadly, the weather has curtailed one of my intended activities which was to spend time the garden so instead, I will put the time to good use by writing todays entry for 29 days of writing.

My ideal weekend would be one where I didn’t have to do any school work so it would be at the start or the middle of a school holiday. It’s not that I mind doing work for school. I often spend time thinking of lesson ideas and tweaking plans but it’s nicer when you don’t have to.

The sun would obviously be shining on my ideal weekend and I would spend the first few minutes looking at the trees out of my bedroom window as the branches move in the breeze. It’s a lovely, lazy way to start the day.

My ideal weekend would also involve my husband not working either so that we can spend some together. That might be going for a walk or pottering about in the garden. The main thing would be that we would be doing something together.

We love to go out at the weekend and often go to the cinema or theatre. However my ideal weekend would be one where we spend the evening at home together. I cook a meal and we have a bottle of wine (or I get lazy and splash out on M and S 2 for £10 meal deal). We light candles and have a romantic dinner at home.

An ideal Sunday would be one when I saw one or both of my children. As they live at opposite ends of the country, I don’t see them very often but weekends that we do spend together are always special.

Sunday evening would be spent relaxing in front of the TV with a glass of wine and a purring tabby cat on my knee.

2016-01-26 19.36.48.jpg
Cat Selfie

I would end my weekend feeling relaxed and ready for whatever the week to come has to offer.

That’s my perfect weekend. What’s yours?