Friday, 28 September 2018

Professional Development Ideas for TAs

There is so much emphasis put on professional development for teachers, but professional development for TAs is never prioritised as much. As a class teacher, I'm fully aware that TAs play a huge part in the successful running of a school and their professional development is just as important. In my role of TA Co-ordinator, I put a lot of thought into activities and training to support professional development for TAs. It can be difficult to find inspiring training opportunities for TAs, but these training workshops were very successful with our TAs.

Planning Professional Development for TAs
  • School Improvement Plan - When planning TA development  you should consider your school's improvement plan and the TA training that would support whole school aims. 
  • Survey - it's always beneficial to ask TAs what they would like to receive training on, which can be done through a simple survey or conversation.
  • Utilise Teachers - Teachers have a world of knowledge and experience to share and you should capitalise on this when planning TA training.
  • Performance Management - All staff should be performance managed each year. Analyse this to identify the key areas that your TA team should develop further.
  • Outside Trainers - While training can often be delivered in school, it's often nice to get an outside trainer in to offer training. This gives them something different to learn but also supports TA value and well-being.
Professional Development Ideas

2 Minute Forums - TAs have a lot of skills that they can share with their colleagues when given the chance. We ran 2 Minute Forums where the TAs shared an idea with their colleagues, given a maximum of 2 minutes sharing time. It was great to hear about the things they do well and learn new ideas, however, some TAs did feel a little pressured about presenting.
You can get ready to print resources for 2 and 5 Minute Forums on my TPT Store and TES Store.

Speed-Dating - Similar to the 2 Minute Forums, Speed-Dating was one of our most successful professional development sessions. Each TA brings an idea to the session and chairs are set up in 2 rows, facing each other. They are then given a specified amount of time to share their idea before moving seats to share with somebody else. This was particularly successful as TAs didn't feel under pressure in this situation.

Qualifications - It's always great to support your TAs in becoming more qualified in their field. There are many companies offering TA training that is recognised all over the world. We have previously worked with TA College and TAs were very enthusiastic about the opportunities to gain further qualifications.

Browsing Fortnight - Each term our school organises a Browsing Fortnight in which all staff go and observe 3 colleagues. This doesn't need to be pre-arranged, it is simple a drop it. Each staff member has two forms to complete, one with positive feedback to the colleague they observed and the other a reflection of what they have learnt from the observation. The reflection cards are then put into a box and one is drawn out for a prize. This is such a great and fun way to learn from the already good practice that is happening in your school.
You can get ready to print resources for Browsing Fortnight on my TPT Store and TES Store.

Inclusion - Children have many different needs and you can never predict the challenges you may face year on year. Teachers are more prepared for these challenges due to their extensive training, however, our TAs are often the people who spend the most time with students displaying challenging needs. Teaming up with your local school counsellor or behaviour unit would be a great way to offer relevant training and better prepare them for the challenges they may face.

Behaviour Management - No matter how much you demand that your class respect your TA, it's often difficult to enforce that same level of respect. Children know there is a difference there and some TAs don't always have the confidence to demand the respect they deserve, particularly in more challenging situations. Behaviour management training is always a beneficial development idea.

I think the key importance when planning professional development for TAs is to give them a voice in what they find challenging and provide training to meet these needs. A more confident and well-trained TA has an incredible impact in the classroom. Taking the time to train them fully will pay huge dividends to your students and your school so invest in these incredible people!

I hope you find some of these ideas useful.

What training opportunities are offered to teaching assistants at your school?
If you're a TA, what opportunities would you love to have?
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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Sound Station Phonics Display

After attending a training course with Alistair Bryce-Clegg in which he talked about classroom displays and how to make them relevant and useful to children, it got me thinking more about the displays I have in my classroom. I'm making an effort to make my displays more child-centred this year and I'm quite happy with how my phonics display has turned out.

I decided to go with a space theme, making phonics sounds on aliens. I split these into Phase 2 and Phase 3 sounds on the board, separating them with a silver line to make it easy for the kids to know which side to look at when trying to identify a specific sound. 

I am trying to give children much more ownership of the displays in the classroom, so I gave them each a photograph of their face and they found the sound that their name begins with and stuck their face onto the alien. This instantly made them more interested in the display as they were involved in it. 

We then discussed our favourite cartoon characters and stuck them onto the faces of the aliens. The kids loved that all of their interests and favourite characters were incorporated into the classroom.

The children's involvement and use of their interests has definitely made the children engage with the display more then simply laminated resources and sticking them up. They regularly look at the display to support them with their work or copy the sounds and characters when playing. It really does make the time and effort that goes into a display so much more worthwhile when the children are using it. 

The aliens can be downloaded here.


Have you involved children in your phonics displays? I'd love to see some examples!
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Friday, 21 September 2018

Ways to Ensure Consistent Assessment Judgements (and a guide)


Making consistent assessment judgements is so important in ensuring children are accurately assessed and their report truly reflects their abilities. The problem with making consistent assessments is their subjective nature, which means that each objective can be interpreted differently by each teacher. While there is no way ensure consistent assessment without cloning teachers, these tips will definitely help.

Training - The ability to accurately assess children doesn't always come naturally so it's important that all staff are given training on how to assess effectively. The task, level of support, resources and space all need to be considered in order to give children the best chance.

Assessment guide 
- An assessment guide or handbook can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to ensuring consistent assessment judgements. Teachers often like to have a reference guide and they gives them that extra confidence when it comes to assessments. By ensuring that the requirements are clearly laid out, there is little room for interpretation or opinion which plays a huge part in ensuring consistent assessments.

The guide includes
  • Objectives for each curriculum area of the EYFS Curriculum.
  • Examples of how children may demonstrate objectives. 
  • Guidance of what constitutes children emerging, developing or meeting expectation within an age-band.
This is something that has been implemented within our EYFS setting and has led to much more consistent and accurate assessment data.
Curriculum understanding - This is so key and it's something that I have previously noted as a big problem in ensuring consistent assessments. Curriculum objectives can be interpreted in many different ways and having a thorough understanding of what each objective really means and what a child would be able to do in order to achieve an objective is essential.

There are various ways to do this but some tried and tested methods that I have used with my team include:
  • Watching videos of children playing or completing activities independently, then identifying which objectives are being achieved, initially independently before sharing as a group. This opens up lots of discussion about what objectives mean and helps teachers to be on the same page. 
  • Provide evidence for an objective and discuss it as a team. What one teacher grades as achieved, another may not so this helps to align those views. 
  • Develop a guideline or narrative for each objective that teachers can refer to when assessing students. We did this together as a team so that everybody had a chance to input their thoughts. If you're looking for pre-made examples, you can find them in my Assessment Guide on my TPT and TES stores.
Team Assessments - When completing end of term assessments, it's helpful to assess children as a year group, particularly if you have a free-flow unit like we do. This ensures that conversations around individual child, abilities and judgements take place at the time of assessment. I often find that the discussions help you to re-think your judgements and ensure they are as accurate as possible. 

Moderation - Moderation is an essential part of the assessment process and it should be part of regular conversations about children's achievement. At the start of your weekly meetings, select a curriculum area and ask everybody to bring along three books along, contain work from a high, middle and low achieving student. Take 5-10 minutes of the meeting to discuss where the children are currently assessed at and discuss whether the evidence provided backs up these judgements. It's great to get in this habit.

Another way which I have previously moderated is by working with individuals to ensure that their ability levels match the assessment data. When leading a large team consisting of four year groups, it was difficult to be present in all of the year groups as much as I'd like so I didn't know the ability level of every child. Once teachers completed their assessments, I took their assessment data into the classroom with me and selected children at random to work with in order to verify the accuracy of the assessments.

When working in EYFS, I created an assessment guide which note only gives an example of the various objectives, it also identifies which objectives must be achieve in order for a child to be emerging towards, working within or exceeding an assessment band. This guide proved to be invaluable in our assessments and the data produced was more reliable than ever before as a result.

Check out my EYFS Assessment Guide in my TPT or TES store.

What strategies are in place at your school to ensure consistent in assessment judgements?
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Friday, 14 September 2018

9 Professional Development Ideas for EYFS Settings


CPD is important, but there's nothing worse than spending a day doing CPD in a workshop that isn't good. I've recently been looking into professional development ideas for EYFS and have found so many great and worthwhile training ideas. Check them out to make sure your next professional development day is great!

Funky Feet - Funky Feet offer training to support fine and gross motor development for young children. Their programme is taught through songs and games and is so much fun for the children while addressing those prime areas. They have sample videos on Youtube as a taster.

Early Excellence - Early Excellence are a key leader in EYFS education, identifying best practice and providing guidance for practitioners. They will come into your learning environment and see what you currently have in place. They will then tailor a training day based on their observations, giving suggestions on how to improve your setting as well as training on how to do so.

Kindermusik - Kindermusik encourages learning in literacy, maths and other areas of learning through songs and music. It is recognised worldwide and such a fun way to support learning. The training is quite expensive and because of that, it's more beneficial to send one teacher for training which will enable them too share this with colleagues.

Tapestry Learning Journal - Tapestry is an incredible assessment tool that documents children learning journey in the Early Years, identifies gaps in learning, analyses data and provides a key communication between home and school. When used to its full capabilities, Tapestry is an incredible  tool. If your school have purchased a Tapestry package, they offer training on all of its capabilities for a small fee.

National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC) - EAL is a challenge that all teachers in the classroom face. Working in an international school, it is a particularly big challenge for my school. NALDIC offer extensive training and resources to help teachers manage and meet the needs of the varying English abilities within the classroom.

Talk4Writing - Talk4Writing is just incredible! The talking, confidence, stories and writing that I have seen come from T4W from very young children is fantastic. Pie Corbett works with teachers who are also T4W consultants and can offer training to your school.

Creative Partnerships - I have previously worked with Creative Partnerships and they are fantastic. The projects that they developed with the children were just incredible. It's been a few years and I recently looked at their website and discovered how big the company has got, now working internationally too. I can't recommend them enough, what they do is fantastic!

Alistair Bryce-Clegg - Alistair Bryce-Clegg has a wealth of experience and great ideas about EYFS. The thing I like most about him is the all of his ideas just make sense. They are practical and things that the everyday classroom teacher can do. Often, the things he suggests are great timesavers for teachers too!

NRICH - As mastery in maths is becoming a priority, I have realised that there is not much out there for EYFS related to maths mastery. NRICH offers a great investigative approach to learning maths and training from them would definitely set any teacher in the right direction.

Have you participated in any great professional development for EYFS? Let me know!
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Friday, 7 September 2018

Ingenious and Speedy Provision Planning on Pintrest

Have you ever heard of Pinterest Planning? It is one of the most time-saving and effective ways of planning enhanced provision in the classroom that I have ever seen. I started this 2 years ago with my EYFS team and it has been one of the most positive changes to our planning. Even those who had reservations are now completely sold on it's effectiveness.

Let's be honest, how many of you teachers of there get lots of ideas from Pinterest? I know I do; there is some fantastic stuff on there! When planning, I found that I was finding a great idea then typing it all out onto our planning format. It was so time consuming and unnecessary and I'm never a fan of wasting time. So, I developed a Pinterest Planning system for our EYFS team and we've never looked back. Here's how we did it...

New to Pinterest?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably already know all about Pinterest and its amazingness. It's essentially a social media network that lets you combine all of the ideas and things you love in one place. You create boards titled with the things that interest you and collect ideas or share your own within each relevant board. There are so many great ideas out there and you can follow others who have lots of ideas that interest you and pin your favourite ideas to your boards.

The best thing about Pintrest? It's completely visual.

Step 1 - Open a new Pintrest account

This isn't essential but I found it easier to keep it separate from my personal account. I set up a new school e-mail address and linked this to the Pinterest account so that it was easy to pass on to my successor if I were to leave my role (which I did coincidentally)

Step 2 - Create public theme boards

Create public boards for themes that you would like to gather ideas for. I created these for areas of an EYFS classroom, such as writing, construction, investigation, outdoor, etc as well as for special events, such as Easter, Christmas, etc. This is a great way to share ideas with your teammates. Our department is large, consisting of 4 different year groups so it's not always possible to physically meet to share ideas. Pinterest provides us with a platform to share ideas and practice without the need to be present when time is tight. It's also great to refer back to year after year.
Step 3 - Create private (or public) planning boards

Next I created private Pinterest boards for our planning. I chose to keep them private as we developed and refined our use of Pinterest, but if you wanted to keep them public that would work too.

For each year group I created 1 board per week. I labelled the boards with the year group, term, week and date. For example, a Reception board was named 'Rec AUWK1 21.8' Teachers can then pin their provision onto the relevant board for that week.

The best thing about this is the time it saves, as well as the visual aspect. What used to take time to type out the idea and recreate the visual, now only takes seconds.
Step 4 - Invite colleagues

Invite colleagues to collaborate on each of the boards. This will then allow your teammates to pin their ideas onto the planning board from their own account. It's easy to invite colleagues to collaborate, but they will need to accept the invitation before they can add their ideas.

Step 5 - Create guidelines

Invite Our Pinterest guidelines were created a little while into planning using Pinterest as we found we had quite a bit of inconsistency with the thought process that went into the provision planning. The guidelines were pretty straightforward and don't add too much time to the planning process.

The required information for each pin includes:

  • Provision area
  • Key objective
  • Related phonics opportunities
  • Related maths opportunities
This information is added to the notes section of the pin for reference throughout the following week.
You can get my 11 page Pintrest Planning Guide on my TPT and TES Store.
It takes a bit of setting up to get your boards ready but once set, your team will never look back and your team will love you for saving them so much time. We have also found that the quality of our provision has improved, partly because we have more time to develop the ideas but also because the visual element of our planning allows us to recreate ideas to a much higher quality.

Have you tried doing your planning on Pinterest? Are you interested in giving Pinterest planning a try? Let me know how it goes for you or give me a shout with any questions.
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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

A Cute Little Welcome Activitiy

On the first day of school we didn't have a proper school day, the children simply dropped in throughout the morning to take a look at their classroom and ask any questions. I really wanted to fill up a display board with their work so that there was something on the wall that belonged to them on their first day.

This year my class will be the Jaguar Class.
I printed lots of templates of jaguars in different poses that the children could colour and decorate and I gave them various methods to do this. They could choose to colour or collage their jaguar. While the children did this, it gave me an opportunity to chat to the parents and answer any questions that they had. It was also a way for the children to settle into the classroom without giving them free reign (because no teacher wants to have to set up the whole room again before the kids even start) 

Once the children had finishes colouring their jaguar, they posed like a jaguar and I took a few photos. The photos were then stuck onto the jaguar's face and onto the wall for a super quick and easy display that was all the children's work. 


What other ideas do you have for super quick start of the year displays?
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