5 Lessons I learnt whilst working as a supply teacher

A few years ago, I made the decision to sign up to some local and not-so-local supply agencies. I’d been considering supply teaching for a little while, but some of my more experienced peers would occasionally warn me off supply teaching as a next career step. Supply teaching, depending on who you speak to, is usually wrought with a mixture of opinions. Some teachers describe supply teaching as the best experience they’ve ever had, while others discourage teachers from taking this step, almost as though becoming a supply teacher is a career ending, pit of doom. As a teacher, who has worked both as a supply and now as a permanent class teacher again, I would have to agree with the former. Leaving ‘regular’ teaching for a short while and becoming a supply teacher was one of the best teaching experiences I’ve had and I would recommend it to every teacher at some point in their career. Here’s some lessons that I learnt while supply teaching, what feels like many moons ago…

#Lesson 1: Set your own boundaries

Before you take the plunge, ask your peers and teacher-friends about the agencies they may have previously used. Some agencies definitely are better than others and will listen to your preferences above their profit margins. Once you become a supply teacher, you are effectively self-employed, so setting your boundaries from the beginning is vital for your own happiness and well-being. It’s tempting when you start out with supply teaching to take every job that is offered your way, irrespective of year group. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you can choose which year groups you would prefer to teach. Some supply teachers I have met would only ever teach Foundation Stage and would be given 4 to 5 days a week supply in these year groups across different schools. It is possible to work with the year groups that you enjoy best. This way, you’ll gain the most out of your supply teaching experience.

#Lesson 2: Expect the unexpected

Fortunately, the majority of classes I’ve taught, I was provided with detailed planning and enough material to cover the sessions. When I was starting out as a supply teacher, this was one of my biggest concerns i.e. being left with an unknown class in terms of their abilities with very little or nothing planned. As time wore on and I became more adept at going into different classrooms, adapting to little or no planning became second place. However, this can be quite a scary prospect for those of you who appreciate a set schedule. Most schools and most teachers will prepare a plan for the day. However, in the minority of cases, it’s a good idea to have some back-up lessons for your particular year groups. There’s nothing quite like welcoming 30 new faces into a class with a blank computer screen and nothing but time to fill until break…Even if you have a couple of lessons that you’re comfortable teaching, it’s a good idea to have them tucked away for a rainy day.

#Lesson 3: Prep the Sat-Nav and always arrive early

If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer to be in a new classroom ahead of time. Sometimes, however, timing can’t be avoided. If a supply agency has rung you last minute to fill in for a teacher who has called in sick, and you don’t mind making your way to the school slightly later than you would normally, the school will usually give you some time to set-up before diving into a lesson. For your average supply teaching day, these kind of stresses can be avoided by setting out early and arriving ahead of time so that if there are discrepancies or changes, they can be rectified before the children enter the school gates.

#Lesson 4: Not all schools are created equally

Working as a supply teacher was a real eye-opening experience into the way different schools were run. Some schools, I was met with polite, friendly members of staff who couldn’t do enough to make sure that I felt supported on that day. In these schools, teachers and teaching assistants would make pleasant conversation at lunchtime and generally make you feel like a valued teacher for the course of your day/s at their school. However, in other schools, you can feel the tension amongst staff and the general underlying stress in a staff room. In these schools, it’s almost as though the teachers don’t have the time to explain what needs to be done for a given day because they’re constantly rushed off their feet. During lunchtimes, it would probably be more beneficial to stay in your classroom because the other teachers don’t want to make eye contact, let alone enjoy a conversation. It’s a very different experience and sometimes can be the decider as to whether you’d want to return for another day. What these experiences have taught me, however, is how important a school’s culture is to overall motivation and cohesiveness of a staff. And perhaps more importantly, where I’d like to ultimately work as a teacher longer term.

#Lesson 5: Behaviour…

Bad behaviour is something that played on my mind before I began supply teaching. It was from my own experiences at school and the terrible torment that all of our supply teachers had to endure, that made me wonder whether I was in for a similar experience. Behaviour management had always been one of my strengths previously, but given that the respect was built on relationships and getting to know the children, supply teaching has to be a very different approach. Whereas you can build respect gradually with your class, you might only have a few moments at the beginning of the day to establish whether the day will go well or end in chaos. Fortunately, the majority of my experiences with behaviour in different schools have been positive. The children, no matter the age, know that you’re not their ‘normal’ teacher and are already probably thinking of ways they can push the boundaries slightly. However, there are always gems in the class who know all of the rules, especially where their peers should actually be sitting on the carpet. Very early in day, I establish the school rules and their own behaviour management system, and I make the children aware of the expectations as if it were my first day with my own class. Although I have only done this occasionally, if you’re feeling slightly concerned by behaviour, I would suggest some name tags to start the day with. At least when the child in the back row is poking and grabbing his friend’s hair in a little tussle, he is isn’t ‘the boy with the blonde hair’ and it always surprises children initially that you know their name when you’ve only been there for 5 minutes. I could continue to write on and on about behaviour management strategies I’ve gained through supply teaching, however the main lessons I’ve learnt are to start the day with expectations, always follow them up and stay firm (but friendly obviously) until some respect has been established.

Also, as a sidenote, there may occasionally be a time that you come across a class that is ‘the known class’ in the school for poor behaviour. You may have been thrown into the total deep end with very little support or hope of building a rapport in that day. My advice for especially tough classes would be, if you can teach the class and gain something from the day, then keep going. If it’s a total disaster, you have the right to walk away. It’s not something I would recommend regularly. However, it’s important that you feel safe, the children are safe and learning is actually happening. For example, I’ve walked into classroom with an older group of children, in a special measures school that suffered with poor behaviour. One of the first things I was told was ‘ah, and there’s little Jimmy. He’s had a good day today, he’s not thrown a chair at anyone.’ At the end of the day, it’s your choice.

Supply teaching can be a very rewarding experience. There’s lots more to be said on supply teaching in schools and how to get the best from your day. However, it’s an experience that has taught me a lot about adapting to different classrooms, the culture within different schools and working with lots of different people. You can choose your schedule and decide which days you’d like to teach which is an added bonus of supply teaching and it’s often a gateway into teaching at the right school for you.

3 Creative Ways to Teach Phonics

Phonics is such an important early stage of learning, providing children access with the tools required to unpick words and learn their initial sounds. Phonics can be taught in many different ways, with the united purpose of helping children to become more confident, fluent and independent readers. Although, these sessions would usually be taught using powerpoints, flashcards and whiteboards for children to practise writing their sounds, there are plenty of creative ways to keep learning phonics throughout the day or at home as part of their home learning.

  1. Outdoor Phonics

From playing hopscotch with phonics sounds to finding buried treasure, there are plenty of great ideas for using the outdoors to teach phonics. Some of my favourite outdoor phonics learning ideas include: sticking phonics sounds on an outdoor wall and giving children a water pistol to shoot the right sound. You could even turn this into a competition with different teams – whoever gets the sound first wins. When teaching in Early Years, we had a pirates themed phonics treasure hunt. This is a great way to engage children with their phonics learning as they have to search for the word on the treasure coin inside the sandpit. Using powerpoints and flashcard tools are great, but getting children outdoors especially in good weather can motivate children to learn their phonics creatively.

2. Fun with play dough

Using play dough to learn phonics is great for tactile learners. Children, who struggle to sit through a 20 minute phonics input could definitely benefit from active learning and keeping busy. There are lots of ways to use play dough to support phonics learning e.g. preparing sound cards and rolling the play dough into sound buttons, making letters, letter stamping and much more. Instead of twiddling their thumbs during carpet time, they can have a go at pressing the sound buttons or even making letters and words out of this stretchy substance.

3. Online Games

Most, if not all schools will use interactive resources when engaging children with phonics. Using games that are timed, competitive and fun can engage children to consolidate their phonics learning. Below is a list of some phonics games websites that children can enjoy for free whether they’re learning as part of a phonics lesson at school or supplementing their phonics learning at home.









Tips for Teaching Phonics at Home

Phonics plays such an important role in children’s school lives, especially if they are in KS1. They would usually take part in a daily phonics session with their teacher to help them to practise and consolidate their sounds. Phonics can be taught in a number of a ways and through a variety of schemes depending on your school’s preference, however the main schemes in the UK are ‘Jolly Phonics, ‘Letters and Sounds’ and ‘Read Write Inc.’ By practising the sounds and blending the sounds into words, children will begin to develop better reading fluency with the aim of becoming highly confident readers. Below are some ideas of how to support your child’s phonics at home as part of their home-school learning:


Become familiar with the sounds your child has been practising at school

At school, children will either be accustomed to learning their phase 2, 3, 4 & 5 sounds or their Set 1, 2 & 3 sounds. The ‘phase’ sounds are part of the ‘Letters and Sounds’ scheme. Whereas the ‘set’ sounds are part of the Read Write Inc Scheme. What’s the difference? The main difference is how the sounds are categorised, however the sounds that all children will learn across the country will be the same. If your child is learning phase 3 sounds, it’s important to keep going with these sounds during home-school learning so that they can begin to recognise them independently and blend them within words. If you’re unsure about which sounds your child might be learning at this point in time, your child’s class teacher should be able to support you with this or you can run through this checklist and discover which sounds your child needs to work on.


Use pure sounds

When first learning phonics, many children can fall into the trap of mixing the alphabet sounds with the pure phonics sounds. Children can also begin to stretch out their sounds with an elongated ‘er’, which can cause some challenges when trying to blend words. For a more comprehensive guide on how some schools teach phonics, here’s a guide according to Read Write Inc phonics on teaching the sounds at home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjlPILhk7bQ.

Using the pure sounds will help children to continue their phonics learning at home and support better reading fluency.


20 minutes a day

To keep phonics fun and enjoyable, it’s a good idea to keep daily phonics sessions brief. By limiting the phonics sessions to 20 minutes a day, children can recap on all of the sounds that they already know using flashcards and working on one sound a day. These videos demonstrate some children recapping the phonics sounds and can help with phonics pronunciation:

Set 1:


Set 2:


Set 3:


After recapping all the sounds, you could focus on one sound that your child needs to work on and help your child to practise saying, writing and blending this sound in different words. This way, your child can continue to keep up their phonics learning at home in a positive and constructive way.

Homeschooling Top Tips for Parents

All across the UK, schools have begun teaching in an unprecedented way and under exceptional conditions. However, as a UK teacher, my school team and I have been relentlessly uploading material to support children at home whilst they embark on this new journey of home-school learning. Parents have been handed the baton of teaching their children, setting a schedule for the day’s learning whilst managing their own workload. As teachers, we are here to support you through this, so I have listed some top tips and strategies to soldier on through homeschooling. We salute you parents!


1. Set a daily schedule

Children across the country will be accustomed to a daily school routine with behavioural expectations. From my own experience, it’s clear that teachers will have prepared children for school closures and that schooling will effectively look very different from the usual school day. However, keeping a routine will be essential for keeping children focused and shielded from all of the coronavirus daily updates. It’s even more important that this routine will benefit your work schedule also. This doesn’t necessarily mean 6 hours of schooling a day! Whatever works best in your household and keeps children learning is best.


2. Mix up your home-school activities


It’s possible that your school has set an overwhelming number of tasks to begin teaching at home, however any teacher that has reasonable expectations would not recommend pushing yourself to the limit to ensure that these are completed. It’s so important, now more than ever, to set realistic expectations for home-school learning activities. Having been in contact with different parents from my current class, it’s clear that they are doing what works best for them during this current crisis. If that means going for a walk (P.E), baking some cakes (English and maths opportunities) or doing some cosmic yoga, it’s what works best for you and your children. Mixing up activities during the day e.g. going for a walk, online activities and some written activities will take the pressure off of formal written tasks that, let’s face it, not all children will feel like doing at home.


3. Stay Positive

This one is harder than the previous two because it requires all of us not to dip into negative ways of thinking during this time. Lately, I’ve found it almost impossible to keep myself from looking up the latest story about the coronavirus, but staying away from negative influences at this time will help immeasurably when teaching at home. At school, children will (hopefully) be used to a lot of positive reinforcement and recognition for their efforts. It’s important to stay mindful of the language and words that are being used at home to congratulate children for their efforts and achievements so that they stay motivated to keep learning.


4. Get Online

The internet has probably never had to work as hard as it has over the past few weeks, but it is an amazing portal to online learning. Many children are taking lessons online with private tutors, interactive websites for English, Maths & Science activities. Anybody who works with or has children knows how instantly absorbed they can become when presented with games and interactive activities that work towards learning goals. There are plenty of useful websites that can keep children’s interests engaged and minds active in the learning process.


5. If something isn’t working, stop

Given all of the pressure and stress that everyone is currently under due to the pandemic, it’s best to stick to what works at home. As teachers, we are constantly asked to reflect on our teaching practise and evaluate which classes have gone well and which ones, could quite frankly, have gone a lot better. It’s normal to lose your patience and get frustrated if your child is taking 2 hours to write 3 sentences. Up until this point in time, children have come to separate school environment from home (a place of relaxation) so don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s not working. Instead, step back and see if there’s a different approach or an alternative activity that they could pursue instead.


6. Reach out to the community

If you are already part of a whatsapp parents group, keep contacting other parents for updates and support. Being asked to quarantine is one of the most trying times some of us will have ever had to face, however it’s essential to stay in contact with others in a similar situation and reach out for advice when needed. Equally, hopefully your school has offered contact details and you can reach out for support from your child’s class teacher. Teachers generally all want to help in this effort and keep up the learning at home as much as possible, so please reach out to teachers and schools if you ever need advice.


7. Believe in yourself!

As simple as it seems, it’s so important you believe in yourself at this time. You will get through this! Your children will have the opportunity to spend more time with you than ever and will be able to get all of the positive support you have to offer. Keep going with all of the wonderful things you are doing at home and mix things up to keep home learning fun and enjoyable. Before you know it, the children will be back at school and keen to share with their friends all of the fantastic things they’ve been doing at home.

20 Must Read Children’s Books for the summer holidays

With longer days and better weather, it’s not long until the summer holidays are upon us. For 6 whole weeks, teachers and children alike can get out of the classroom and enjoy a much deserved break. Even though the summer holidays provides a perfect time to relax, it’s a great time for children to keep developing their reading fluency skills and encourage a love for story-telling. Below I’ve listed 20 must-read children’s books for this summer. This book list is aimed at 8 – 10 year olds. I’ve also included 3 freebies in this post. You can download a bronze, silver or gold reading certificate if your child has successfully read 5, 10 or 20 books. Enjoy!

  1. The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

The hobbit

The Hobbit is a children’s fantasy novel, written by J. R. R. Tolkien. This book is a wonderful read for children who love adventure. The story maps the journey of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and his quest to acquire the treasure, belonging to Smaug the dragon. Along his journey, Bilbo faces all manner of challenges that require him to call upon his knowledge, strength and courage. The hobbit is a beautifully told story and perfect for the summer holidays.

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

harry potter

Harry Potter is one of the most famous and popular children’s books of the 21st Century. The story begins with a ten year old boy who discovers that he has magical abilities. Harry Potter learns about a whole other magical world which leads him to make friends, face challenges and have adventures during an exciting year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

3. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is the first part of the trilogy of books set in a dystopian reality.  The series follows the trials and tribulations of characters Katniss Everdeen and Peter Mellark. Within the story, it is clear that there is a great deal of unfairness between the rich elite and poor masses. The poverty-stricken districts are given the opportunity to compete in deadly games once a year, resulting in one winner and many losses. The Hunger Games cleverly raises themes relating to struggle and injustice, as well as persistence and the triumph of friendship over division.

4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis

the lion the witch and the wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an absolute classic and a fantastic read for children. The story is set during wartime in England and follows the path of four siblings who are evacuated from London. These children arrive in a country house and discover a magical world inside a wardrobe. The story is set in the fantasy land of Narnia and contains mythical creatures, good and bad.

5. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman

northern lights

Northern Lights is a fantasy novel written by Philip Pullman. The main character, Lyra Belacqua journeys to the Arctic in search for her friend, Roger Parslow and uncle, Lord Asriel. In this fantasy world, souls can exist outside of the body and present themselves in the form of different animals. Lyra Belacqua goes in pursuit of her friend and uncle, battling different challenges along the way.

6. Carrie’s War, Nina Bawden

carrie's war

Carrie’s War is set during the second world war and follows two children’s experiences of being evacuated. The main characters, Carrie Willow and her brother Nick and evacuated to Wales, where they stay with an unkind shopkeeper. Carrie and Nick make new friends and begin to share stories with each other. The story highlights what life was like for children evacuated during the second world war.

7. The Witches, Roald Dahl

the witches

A young boy goes to live with his Norwegian grandmother and listens to her wonderful, but terrifying stories. She tells him about witches and how they live among ordinary people. The young boy is horrified, but interested to learn ways to spot a witch. The story follows his grandmother’s tales about witches and and how dangerous they are. Once the main character begins spotting the witches around him, he finds himself in a world of trouble.

8. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl is part of an 8 book adventure series. The story centers on a criminal mastermind who also happens to be a teenage genius. Artemis captures a fairy in the first book and holds her to ransom so that he can recover his family fortune. As the story continues, Artemis Fowl begins to assist the fairy people and demonstrates more heroic qualities.

9. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz


Alex Rider is the protagonist of this series of adventure books. The story begins with a tragedy in the family. Alex discovers that his guardian and uncle, Ian Rider has died in mysterious circumstances. Alex is given details from different sources that just don’t seem to add up. Stormbreaker is the first book in a series of adventure spy novels that follows the brave pursuits of a young teenage boy.

10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

roald dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a fantastic Roald Dahl story, focusing on the life of Charlie. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory is opening it’s doors again, but only to a select few individuals. Children and adults alike search for the rare golden tickets in bars of chocolate. Charlie was able to buy a chocolate bar with surprising results. The story is full of wonderful chocolate inventions.

11. Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (Usborne Classic Re-told)

tom sawyer

Tom Sawyer is a 12 year old boy living in St. Petersburg, Missouri in 1845. Tom and Huck carry out adventures together throughout the story. They are particularly concerned with freeing the runaway slave Jim. Tom’s obsession with stories puts this plan in jeopardy. Both boys learn that Jim’s owner has already died which sets him free. The story details a journey of intellectual and emotional development.

12. Dracula, Bram Stoker (Usborne Classics Re-told)


Dracula is a gothic horror story, written by Bram Stoker. This story is adapted to suit younger readers. The story begins with Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, who visits Count Dracula in Transylvania. While there, he soon realises that he has become Dracula’s prisoner. It is Dracula’s intention to leave Transylvania and move to England where he can spread the undead curse.

13. The Midnight Gang, David Williams

the midnight gang

The Midnight Gang is an entertaining and light-hearted read, perfect for the summer holidays. When most children are fast asleep, the midnight gang are searching for adventures. The central character, Tom is hit on the head with a cricket ball, finding himself in hospital. Things seems to go from bad to worse when Tom is introduced to the wicked Matron. However, Tom’s life is also set to become more interesting.

14. Horrible Histories, Terrible Tudors, Terry Deary

terrible tudors

Even though reading fiction is a great way to escape during the summer holidays, if your child prefers to read non-fiction, then the horrible histories series is a great alternative. The Terrible Tudors is packed full of interesting facts about the tudor family, represented in a funny and entertaining way. These books are wonderful for memorising facts about tudor history and developing pleasure for reading.


15. Horrible Histories, Ruthless Romans, Terry Deary

ruthless romans

Finding out more information about the ruthless Romans couldn’t be more interesting or entertaining as this addition to the Horrible Histories series. This is a great non-fiction read for children who are more obsessed with facts than fiction. There are wonderful illustrations and wealth of facts. This can help to enhance children’s understanding of history as well as develop reading fluency.

16. Tales of the Trojan War, Usborne Classics Re-told


The Trojan War, retold by Usborne Classics, is a wonderful introduction to Greek mythology. This is an action-packed text that offers children a real insight into some mythological stories. The Trojan War details the classic story of epic Greek heroes and their mission to avenge a Troy army of 100,000 men. This story is written in a modern and approachable way, ideal for children interested in mythological stories.

17. Horrible Histories, Awful Egyptians, Terry Deary

awful egyptians

The Horrible Histories, Ancient Egyptians book includes all manner of interesting and gruesome facts about the Ancient Egyptians. This is a great read for children as many history and topical subjects overlap with the Ancient Egyptians during school time. Reading about the Ancient Egyptians will keep children both informed and help to develop a curiosity about historical facts.

18. Tales of King Arthur (Usborne Classics Retold)

the king arthur

The Tales of King Arthur is a modern and approachable read for children. Inside this book, the author retells stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table. This is an adventurous and fast-paced read for children. The author saves the best story for last, retelling the events of the sword in the stone.

19. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson

double act jacqueline wilson

Jacqueline Wilson is a fantastic children’s writer and explores a range of themes that impact children’s lives. The story Double Act is based on the lives of twin girls, whose lives are thrown into turmoil after their dad finds a new girlfriend, Rose. Emotions run high as the girls comes to terms with the changes in their lives and react in mischievous ways.

20. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

good omens

Good Omens is  based on the premise that ‘end times’ are coming. One of the characters, ‘Warlock’, considered to be the anti-christ, is just a normal 11 year old boy. Instead, due to a mix up at birth, a boy named Adam Young is actually the harbinger of doom, but has no knowledge of the true powers he possesses. The story follows Adam and the creation of his gang, resulting in his decision to either exacerbate or end the apocalypse.

As promised, here are three freebie certificates. You can click to download and receive a bronze, silver and gold award reading certificate.

Click Here: reading certificates

tes reading certificates



Video Teaching Inspiration #4 ~ The Wish-maker

Thinking Questions

  1. Why do the characters throw a golden coin into the well?
  2. What do you think the first man wished for? Why?
  3. Why did the man and the woman throw a golden coin into the well?
  4. What prevented their wish from coming true?
  5. How did the ‘wish-maker’ solve the problem?
  6. Which methods did the ‘wish-maker’ use to try to make their wish come true?
  7. Close your eyes. Consider what you might wish for. What would your wish be and why?
  8. If your wish didn’t come true, what actions could you take to make your wish a reality?

Writing Ideas

Imagine a character makes a wish every week. Each of his/her wishes come true, but they are not what they expected. Write about what could go wrong with his/her wishes.

Write about your own wish coming true. How would you feel if your wish came true? What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you meet?

The wishing well has become too popular. Everybody’s wishes are coming true. Can you write a letter to the ‘wish-maker’ explaining how this is creating problems for the town?

Schooling with a difference: Alternative schools around the world

Working in mainstream schools can provide a huge insight into the standards and expectations of teaching in the 21st century. However, with growing class sizes, emphasis on grammar and testing, I’ve often wondered how alternative schools approach education differently. It is true that many mainstream schools are increasingly considering the impact of their teaching on learners and how much of their lesson material will have an effect on their pupils’ future. With vast technological growth and changing priorities within the workforce, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine which industries children will be working towards. Some schools around the world are facing these changes head on. Whilst other schools, fed up with exam preparation, are taking a softer approach towards learning. Below are some schools that live on the periphery of the mainstream and have chosen to do things differently:

Egalia Pre-School, Stockholm, Sweden

Egalia has thrown out dated concepts of gender norms. Gender pronouns are a thing of the past in this pre-school, with boys and girls being referred to as ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘she’ with the hope that these children will go on to view each other as equals, unburdened by strict gender expectations. Many consider Egalia’s approach to be highly controversial, foreseeing an uncomfortable future of gender neutral beings rather than defined male and female genders. The basic premise for this type of schooling is the eradicate gender stereotypes and allow children to choose their likes and dislikes based on their personal preferences rather than be governed by subtle or sometimes, overt pressure to subscribe to a more gender favourable interest.

Some have expressed that this will somehow prevent boys from pursuing more aggressive activities, like sword fighting amongst other ‘typically’ boyish games. Instead, perhaps it’ll just give both genders the opportunity to borrow interests from each other without feeling squashed into a male or female sized mold.

AltSchool in San Francisco, California

With a greater emphasis on technology, schools have sought to become more knowledgeable with regards to coding, building computers and developing a greater understanding of how a computer works. Within mainstream schools, coding and developing a broader awareness about computers has been included within the curriculum. For many teachers, these are new concepts to begin imparting on their students also. However, in Altschool, children are encouraged to learn these key skills regularly and will become more comfortable with a range of computing skills, such as building circuit boards. By instilling these skills early on, the hope is that these children will be well-equipped to enter a competitive future workforce.

Blue School, New York

The first time that I had heard of Blue School was after watching a youtube clip of the Dalai Lama in conversation with Matt Goldman, a founding member of the Blue Man Group. Blue School initially began as a playgroup in 2006 and prioritised creativity above more monotonous approaches. Children who participate in classes at the Blue School will be encouraged to think more broadly and consider their environment. The Blue School have adopted a creative approach toward learning and aim to help their learners to become more inquisitive and reflective as individuals.

Steve Jobs School in Amsterdam, Netherlands

This school takes a unique approach towards learning and an absolute dream approach for children that are consistently falling behind. When children begin their learning process, they are given an individualised learning plan. This is carried out through a 6 week course and then reviewed and adapted according to the learner’s needs. One particular frustration with teaching large class sizes within a fairly prescriptive curriculum is how quickly children are expected to move from one topic to the next, often without feeling fully secure in that subject. By introducing an individualised plan, these children are encouraged to work at their own pace and only move onto subjects as and when they are ready.

Summerhill School, UK.

Summerhill School places and emphasis on democratic learning. Children can determine their own timetables and decide how to use their time effectively. They may choose to spend some time learning, creating art, playing, socialising etc. Although there are some rules in place preventing children from playing games or watching TV during learning time, schooling is a much freer and flexible process.

How we learn best often depends on our individual personality traits e.g. whether we enjoy structure or flexibility, group work or individual learning. Working in a mainstream school can sometimes incur questions such as, ‘how can the learning be measured?’ or ‘what about those children who need structure? How would they cope in a more flexible environment?’ It’s clear that there is no one school that fits all solution for every child. Even though the majority of schools may adhere to a particular structure and way of teaching, these alternative schools can definitely offer an insight into how education could be different.

Video Teaching Inspiration #3

Thinking Questions

What did you enjoy about the clip?

What made the magician’s hat magical?

How did the rabbit feel?

Why was the rabbit frustrated?

How did the rabbit behave when he/she didn’t get the carrot?

What could the magician have done differently?

What could the rabbit have done differently?

What tricks did the rabbit play on the magician?

Why was the performance still a success?

Did the story end well? Why?

Writing Ideas

Write a play script based on a magic show. You can invent your own characters and an animal that is included in the performance. The magician and his companion have a disagreement. Write about the disagreement and the consequences on the show.

What happens next? Write the event that comes after the magic show is finished. Does the magician keep working with the rabbit and put on another performance? What happens this time?

The magician is fed up with his mischievous rabbit. He wants to put the rabbit up for sale. Create a poster about the magician’s rabbit and use powerful adjectives to describe the rabbit’s qualities.

How to use different learning styles to your advantage

Whether teaching takes place in the classroom or at home, delivering lessons and introducing new concepts to children can be an incredibly rewarding experience. By helping children along on their pathway to success, you can be that positive role model in their lives cheering them on. However, teaching also has its many challenges as you are all most probably aware. From behavioral challenges, insecurity about ability, lack of confidence and gaps in knowledge, there’s sometimes a lot of catching up to do in order to build children’s’ confidence and address educational needs. What is clear, however, is the breadth of different learning styles within the classroom. So what can be done keep students interested in learning and create life-long learners?

The 1970s gave birth to individualised learning styles, which helped to re-shape the way in which education was viewed and delivered. Although certain theories preceded Neil Fleming’s work on different learning styles, he suggested that there were four main learning groups that teachers and students alike lean towards when understanding a new subject. These four sensory learning styles are: visual, auditory, written/reading and kinaesthetic learning. It is true that we all can learn from each style individually, but tend to choose one style over the other as a preference, especially when trying to memorise new information. Below are some examples that highlight activities you can try to cater for different learning styles:

Kinaesthetic Learning

Group Of Children Enjoying Drama Class Together

Kinaesthetic learning is an excellent approach for those children who just can’t sit still. The children that need to constantly fidget and spend their break times running around until they are completely puffed out. Sitting on the carpet for longer than 10 or 15 minutes may prove challenging for these students who would rather be showing off their sporty skills in P.E. lessons. For these energetic children, using actions and movements could prove highly effective to keep them engaged. When counting or practising times tables, jumping, star jumps, jogging on the spot whilst saying their number facts can keep their mind and bodies active. As for lessons when they will need to sit down and write for longer than 15 minutes, having a quick break half way through the writing process could help to release some energy so that they can continue to work at a good pace. Brain breaks and quick 5 minute exercises could help to re-focus their attention after sitting for longer periods.

Auditory Learning

little girl with headphones at home

Sometimes, when working with the younger year groups, it’s more difficult to determine which children have a talent for music. Also, music lessons are most often taken by an additional teacher so it can be challenging to spot those children that are musically gifted. Auditory learners are excellent listeners. These children sit well during the explanation and can regurgitate what you’ve said without much difficulty. When having to memorise facts, creating songs, rhymes or poetry to remember information such as grammatical terms can really help these children to memorise key facts. Also, introducing music into lessons and discussing the impact different music has on mood can encourage these children to use their auditory skills.

Writing & Reading

Young Child Drawing on Paper with Pencil

Having a mini whiteboard on the carpet during the input is particularly useful for these children. When watching a short clip or learning new information, children who learn best through jotting down their ideas can record what they have learnt. Useful tools for these learners include having a doodle book where they can jot down information, creative writing activities, opportunities to read during the school day. Children who love learning through writing and reading are often most suited to the style in which most lessons are delivered. They are able to shine using these talents within literacy lessons.

Visual Learners

Little girl painting on paper

Visual learners learn best from an array of bright images, illustrations and visual stimulus. Having lots of pictures on explanation powerpoints can help to bring further meaning to the topic and help them to relate the learning objective with visual imagery. These learners tend to be highly observant, enjoy artistic activities. Allowing some drawing activities and painting lessons to represent the learning objective can help visual learners to consolidate what they have learnt.

Here’s a learning questionnaire to determine what your child’s learning style might be: http://vark-learn.com/the-vark-questionnaire/the-vark-questionnaire-for-younger-people/



Video Teaching Inspiration #2

Thinking Questions

Where do you think the pigeons are sitting? (place, city etc.)

What did the pigeons spend their day doing?

What did one of the pigeons notice?

How did the pigeons try to get the cupcake?

Can you think of a different way for the pigeons to reach the cupcake?

How did the pigeons feel when a bigger bird dropped a worm into the basket?

Writing Ideas

  1. Invent a way for the birds to reach the cupcake. Describe how the birds can reach the sweet treat.
  2. Write instructions for how to reach the cupcake.
  3. What could happen next? Write the next part of the story.
  4. Describe how the birds felt at different stages of the clip.