> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: June 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Arguably, when you are my height (just over 5ft) a 'weemee' picture is slightly redundant. But I couldn't resist visiting the weemee website when I saw it over at Tecnoteach.

I feel a lot more comfortable with this sort of self representation than the kind of thing that seems to come naturally to the younger generation.
(Sorry. Starting to sound like I've had a difficult day with my zimmer and hearing aid.)

I don't really like getting my photograph taken. I put my picture on my blog because I found that I liked seeing what other bloggers looked like, and thought it was only fair to put my mug shot up as well. Also I don't like the idea of anonymity on the internet. Be real. Virtually.

Perhaps the whole thing is getting the balance - giving an account of ourselves that's honest without being overly self-revelatory.

The other site which Tecnoteacher references is Voki. I did try to make up a picture on that which looked vaguely like me, but failed miserably. I think they need something in between the beautiful people and the edgy ones.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Leadership in school - for pupils too.

Don Ledingham started an interesting thread on the value of Sixth Year, and it’s got me pondering. I’ve been thinking about our school year (see my previous post)and also about our senior pupils. When I started S5 at school I remember feeling more responsible. Staff talked to us in a different way. There were opportunities to show leadership, especially as prefects. We were expected to help supervise younger pupils, either by patrolling the playground, or if it was raining actually being left in charge of classes.

Along with the responsibility we got privileges. We wore a different uniform. We had a common room. We were the first year group to be considered for events which involved representing the school. And something that had never happened before: we were consulted. Then – and here’s a novel idea as far as present day ‘consultations’ seem to go- the thing we requested actually happened.

I’ve heard teachers complain that nowadays senior pupils aren’t interested in taking up a more responsible role within the school. They cite instances in schools where pupils have refused to become prefects, or ridiculed those willing to get involved.

Just noticed Gairloch High School’s blog. At Gairloch they have been interviewing for prefects’ posts. They appear to give clear responsibilities to their S5 and S6. Perhaps that's why pupils feel comfortable applying.

Do you have prefects in your school? Or something else that works better?

Perhaps the real way forward is to give ‘prefecture'(?) a makeover. What could we call it, and what would it entail?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Learn how to have fun in English

Do you remember the Hartley’s jam advert where you got to see the strawberries or raspberries being sealed into the jar and boiled up? Perhaps you remember the funny suction noise of the lid being slammed down? I was reminded of this advert on Friday last period when my second years arrived at my oven - sorry classroom.

We have a school policy of making pupils remove jackets and sweatshirts when they arrive in class. On Friday I didn’t need to enforce it. The kids were sweltered. In a different school, in a different time, I could have taken them outside and let them roll around the grass, make daisy chains and draw pictures of Marc Bolan (Okay, so now you’re getting my secondary school memories…)

Thank goodness I had planned to give them some word games. I’d put together a sheet of rebuses and ‘origins of words and phrases’. I believe that puzzling over words gives pupils the opportunity to learn about a whole range of things from problem solving to grammar.

My second years loved them, so we moved onto a few lateral-thinking puzzles. I had also made up some anagrams of their names which was really hilarious. If you want an anagram maker that’s fairly safe look at Blackdog's Anagram Creator.

My strategy is to present them with the anagrams and if no lights go on, talk quietly to one of the pupils whose name I have anagrammed and ask him/her if a particular anagram looks at all familiar. The thing is that they really do get a feeling about those letters. They can’t quite think where they have seen them before but something is nagging away at them about it. They almost always get it within about 2 minutes. They then become the 'expert' on deciphering.

All very satisfying. I must admit I was pleased when most of them wanted to take the worksheets home.

Answers to the puzzle above: - Too (two) funny for (four) words.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Do you think the Scottish school year works?

I started my new timetable at the beginning of this week. I was especially keen to meet my new seniors. Two of my classes are mixed S5 and S6 pupils. Since study leave was over for the new S5, they arrived at the start of the week. Our new S6 had study leave until Thursday so half of my class didn’t come back until then. A number of them also informed me that they would be missing a couple of days between now and the end of next week, since exams aren’t actually over…

Our department has strategies in place to deal with this. We work on the units that involve the most independent work, personal writing pieces and so on. That way students will not be impacted too badly by the changing class population. We are also trying to cover the same ground as a department, over the six weeks.

Staff have mixed feelings about this. It doesn’t feel right to be starting a new class in this staggered way. You try to set the regulars off on their work and then re-do your presentation to the newbies. You make up worksheets that read like the intro to 24. Jack has been busy...

The pupils themselves usually respond with good nature. Of course they’re tired after exams and they’ve never been in a class with people from outside their year group. They sit in year group clusters. However I’m confident we will begin to gel in a week or two. And four weeks on we’ll be that strange animal - a class.

Then we will go off for six weeks. We will come back with our exam results and the class shuffling will start again.

Old timers sigh and say this is just how it is. They point to the benefits of having classes (generally) worked out before end of term. It makes the start of the new session easier. You can also set summer reading projects. You get creative.

I don’t think it works. I think the aforementioned benefits could be gained by having classes on new timetable for the last week of school.

And I think we could change to that quite easily by doing one thing: have the exams closer to the end of our school year.

Why wouldn’t this work?