Interim reports

Education Learning Log

So what?

I keep asking the question so what? In our haste to implement CfE are we asking so what enough? What do I mean? It’s all about the self reflection thing. Self reflection isn’t just about HGIOS and the umpty twenty other tools we use. It’s about knowing what your key purpose is in a school, clearly understanding that and taking a stance. Looking at what is going well and having an impact on learning and asking – so what will change if I implement such and such. I think we need to stop and ask this at the moment. An example? Take sensory spelling – we understand the basics behind that, but are we asking the question in our classrooms about progression in our lessons? Are we sometimes just asking kids to carry out additional activites because we feel thats what expected? If they can spell a word in context shouldn’t we move on and ditch some planned activities? My plea at the moment is that as professionals we remind ourselves of challenge, pace and always ask so what? Don’t do things to impress AN other – do things because you believe it will make a difference to learning. Don’t stick an add on in school if it won’t have any impact. Keep asking questions! Does active learning always mean playing a game and fun? I’m all for enjoyment but real enjoyment of learning isnt always without pain…That deep learning zone that we all want to  reach involves deep reflection, deep thinking, practise and sometimes that’s hard. And if we lose sight of that check and balance we won’t do any favours for the children in our care. Rant over!

September 19, 2009 Posted by | learning | | 1 Comment


A busy few weeks are ahead. As I mentioned previously we are just completing our HMIe2 process. The report is written by EA and we are just waiting to see if HMIe will pop in or not for a moderation visit. We also have a quick HMIe visit next week to discuss impact of Teaching Profession for 21st century. It’s sad but true that no matter what reason for an HMIe visit the tummy still churns a bit in trepidation!

Here’s my wee worry today. A sort of active learning dilemma…. There is a tension between active learning and the resulting quantity and quality of written work in jotters! I have a bee in my bonnet today about jotter presentation, and I’ve been having a good old moan, but also a general panic that I am not seeing enough written evidence. However this helps remind me of the fear that teachers in class have about fully engaging with a more active approach… As with everything it is about balance…

Yes a move to active learning is needed however we need to remember that the skill of an excellent teacher is one of moving between different teaching approaches for different purposes.

November 14, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Active Learning

As we all move towards a curriculum for excellence I find myself increasingly looking towards good practice in the nursery. Active, child centred learning happens in the early years and we have a lot to learn from early years practitioners!

I’ve been increasingly impressed by how teachers in our Primary 1,2 and 3 class are finding their creativity again and enjoying teaching children without the chains of 5-14 curriculum timing constraints. We no longer have 15 minute blocks of time for things like mental maths where we stopped and started something else whether or not learning was complete or appropriate.

In p3 today it was the children’s afternoon in our infant open area. The context for their play at the moment is the cafe. I particularly liked the way the teacher was developing their cafe big book. It’s magic to see teachers finding their way with more freedom to take risks. Her big book is divided into 6 sections for the 6 activities children play through over 6 weeks (free play is also included). Within each section the children’s names and groups are pasted -the teacher does a traffic light dot next to each child’s name at each activity as she assesses how they are doing. The children paste in good work examples or might write in comments or draw a picture.

In p5 they were in their open area in the afternoon carrying out the same kind of active learning after watching how the infants do it. They were using the context “The community centre” which is their current topic. Again there were 6 groups – each group carrying out an activity – designing a logo, researching on the computer, discussion groups etc. All very impressive. The difference from what previously was done is wonderful. Previously we had rigid programmes eg ICT skills programme, technology kits to be completed at certain stages – all done in the name of 5-14. However what happened was the children did activities which they did not understand the purpose of, which often were only there to tick a 5-14 grid box etc. What I saw today had clear purpse and children clearly engaged, talking and learning in a multitude of ways.

To facilitate these active learning sessions in our afternoons each teacher has a classroom assistant at this time, some may have 2. Our p6 teacher has 4 parent volunteers starting soon to assist her class at this time. Fabulous.

In the meantime I was working in the nursery all day yesterday to release the nursery nurse to see her parents for consultations. The nursery staff have been working hard on developing their planning to really reflect learning intentions. Off I trot to the painting table. In zoom the weans. I failed at the first hurdle.

“Where’s the table cloth?” asks nursery teacher after I put out all the paints and children are painting….

“Yeeha!” say the children as I produce a water pot. Never before seen by three year olds, I now know why they don’t get a water pot at painting. I won’t go into the details…..

And what was my learning intention for the children? I think it was that they would learn how to help a HT clean up a very big mess with a mop….

November 8, 2007 Posted by | learning | , | Leave a comment

Writing a haiku and active learning

The P6 class were having a ball today writing some haiku poetry. They’ve been using “Hercules heroes and bampots” as a book study, so used words and phrases from that to write these. Here are a couple of examples. I think they’re great.


Hercules strang man

Can banjo his opponents

Built like a hoose end


Hera hated Herc

She wanted tae malkie him…..

She wanted him deid!


Eurystheus – feart!

He gave people the dry boak.

A pure mammie’s boy.

At our stage meeting tonight we were talking about using our open areas differently for active learning sessions in the junior and senior department. The infants were explaining how they use big books and how they structure groupings etc. A teacher who is is fairly new to our school said she wasn’t used to the freedom of this kind of approach and was used to just following programmes of study. It’s not so much freedom as trusting teachers to be professionals and to be able to use their judgement! The best way to implement change as a Head is first of all to let go…. That’s a bit scary sometimes.

As a profession have we deskilled our teachers by focusing on programmes of study rather than outcomes?As HTs have we used hierarchical systems and sometimes fear to implement a way of teaching and learning which is now very difficult to move on from? We seem to have put in security blankets/assessment sheets/planners which have taken away a lot of creativity from the teaching process.

My continuous mantra this weather is not just asking why but also why not.

When I went into the nursery today they were making soup, in  P2 some children were working away on doing trick sums where the answers were negative numbers eg 7-9= because they wanted to find out about that and wanted to know how you got the answer! P6 were writing their haikus, P1 were doing “long” by making a huge connected circle of wee toys, using long strings etc, P3 were working on good listening with their new teacher who had a head band with fluffy antennae on as a sign that it was her turn to talk. So it goes on….These teachers know what to do and we need to work with them so they can get on with it without fear and keep asking them what other possibilities they see to be even more creative in their teaching.

Tomorrow we’re having a day dedicated to learning more about Malawi throughout the school. Various speakers, visitors and activities have been organised. I’m looking forwad to hearing about Mrs Gibson’s visit there. We have people from Mary’s Kitchen and a visitor from street kids. Children will be doing art work, trying some rhythms/music from Africa, having some related PE activities, learning about money in Malawi, having talks from our community policeman about how we treat new children to our school etc etc It should be a good day.

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Creativity | , , | 2 Comments