So the Phonics Check will soon be upon us! As such you may want to practise your phonics over the half term to make sure you keep up to scratch with it all. For parents here is a crib sheet to help you so you know how the sounds are meant to be. Of course sometimes they make alternative sounds for example in the word 'giant' the 'g' is making a /j/ sound so be careful.
So when we have the Phonics Check you will be presented with flashcards with 40 words, 20 real words and 20 pseudo or alien words. In the check you will be able to tell the difference between these because the real words will be just a word and the alien words will have an alien on it. If it is a real word it must be sounded and pronounced correctly - so 'giant' will need a /j/ sound at the beginning not a /g/ sound. If it is an alien word though it doesn't matter as long as it is possible in phonics.
Here you can download a file with some example words to try at home and you can also make your own to try out as well:
You can also play the many games on the PhonicsPlay please visit the website and have a go on the games to practise your phonics - you will need an adult with you to check you are doing it right. Some of the games are free and others need a subscription which is £12 a year but for a limited time here are my login details:
Username: MisterDrew Password: willowfarm
Don't forget to check out the Reading Robot (you will need my username and password) in Phase 5 where they have words to sound out and practise with - but the alien words don't have aliens on them so you will need an adult to help.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me through this website.
As we have been doing really well with our money at school I thought we could continue to practise at home. So below you will see a game you can play (as well as doing your reading obviously). If you cannot see the game below please try >>>clicking here<<< to visit another website with it on.
"There are so many applications my head hurts just thinking about it!"
I've recently been looking at the recent developments in Office 365 for education. Mainly surrounding the Class Notebooks and Staff Notebooks attached to OneNote. Basically instead of just having separate notebooks in each of the children's 365 accounts now the teacher can create a class notebook that has 3 areas to it:
A resources area that the teacher can populate, all the children can access but in a view only fashion.
A collaboration area that everyone has read write access to.
Student notebooks that are private to each student but that the teacher has full access to as well.
That is just amazing! You can put all your lessons on their and share it with the kids; you can see what they are doing and interact with them as they do it; they can interact with each other as they do it; You can take pictures on the fly and upload it automatically to the appropriate notebook so the kids and their parents can see it - instantly; you can take video and or voice feedback for the work they have done (either virtual work or take a photo of the written work and then do it) so the kids who are too young to read well can still get high quality feed back..... There are so many applications my head hurts just thinking about it!
"iPads... far to expensive and powerful for their limitations in school."
I have also go my hands on one of the Microsoft Surface family. This also seems to be a bit of a game changer for me. I've never been completely happy with iPads in the classroom. Yes they are very flash (ironic that really!) and there are countless things you can do with them, however they are rather expensive, most of the decent apps cost (a lot when you tend to be buying them in multiples of 10), they are not at all geared up for multiusers (though I appreciate that is changing in OS9.3), using them as productivity devices always seems a bit clunky and needs Bluetooth keyboards etc. to work well, their integration with the network at school and 'school software' is either non existent or expensive to sort out. Ultimately they end up being used to play games, take photos and do research on the web. Which is absolutely fine... but they are far to expensive and powerful for their limitation in school.
So now I have an MS Surface to play with and my thoughts so far? WOW! It is what a convertible is meant to be! This tied in with Office 365 means that the application in the classroom could be seamless. Granted the price is a bit steep on the top of the line models but for the uses in school I'm reckoning that the Surface 3 would do just fine. It seems Microsoft agrees with me on this as they are currently doing a deal for educational institutions to get them in schools around the world - contact your preferred Microsoft agent.
As I said at the beginning it is early days at the moment, but Microsoft seems to have come back to the part with all these items and I'll be sure to let you know what I think as I do more with them.
So this week we were very lucky to receive a visit from award winning author and illustrator Ross Collins. This was organised through the lovely people at The Scottish Book Trust. Our English coordinator received information that they were looking to run a book tour in the area and we had to write back explaining the things we would be doing around the authors work. We were chosen and were sent some books to look at with the children and given a date that Ross would come and visit us on.
Now I will be the first to admit that I had not knowingly come across Ross's work before. I believe he has currently written and illustrated 11 of his own book but has illustrated over 100 children's books so you are likely to have seen some of his work without knowing it. The books that we ere sent by the Scottish Book Trust were:
It is fair to say that all the children absolutely loved all the books finding their content highly enjoyable and engaging. The Scottish Book Trust had also provided links to work that could accompany the books but I always struggle using other people's planning and had some ideas of my own anyway.
We read all the books to the children at different occasions so they were able to be really familiar with the works. In my year 1 class we then set to doing some work around There's a Bear on My Chair as we had been looking at things to do with the polar regions. In reading the book the children were able to identify that that chair that bear had stolen was not very well suited to him. They identified problem areas around the chairs design and then went about designing chairs that would better suit bear and, hopefully, mean he would leave the chair for mouse.
In Foundation they had dome some work around Robot Rumpus and made their own robots to do jobs around the house and school.
When Ross came it was a very exciting day. We had organised that the children could bring in plates designed with a meal for a favourite book character. These were laid out and Ross judged his favourite four to win a signed copy of one of his books. We also organised an orienteering style competition where there were pictures of Ross's characters, with letters written on the back, were hung around the school grounds. The Children were then given cryptic clues to read and work out which character it referred to and then write down the corresponding letter. When they had collected all the letters it would spell something out to them...
The highlight of the day however was the visit from Ross himself. He turned up with his entourage and I took him on a tour of the school to show him the work we had been doing. We then went into the lodge to meet the children from Foundation and Year 1. Ross then entertained and inspired the children for the next few hours with reading from his books - where the children excitedly joined it with voices for the characters; He showed them the original artwork for the books and explained how the process of developing a book works; He drew three original pieces for the school:
a unique robot inspired by Robot Rumpus,
a Bear in the Chair,
a Weirdy Beast for the school were the children chose animal parts and Ross made them into a monster.
The children then had a go at drawing their own monsters with assistance from Ross. All of them were hugely engaged, including children that wouldn't normally be interested in drawing.
All of these activities and opportunities really highlighted something to me:
Targets, official outcomes and age expected levels are meaningless!
The important thing in Primary and especially KS1 is about engaging the children with learning and getting them passionate and excited about wanting to learn. That it what we should be doing!