Today is National Teaching Assistant Day 2017. You can read more about it here
The TAs and HLTAs on the FDLT and BALT courses are developing their existing roles in school with their university study. This often mean that their roles change as they move towards the next steps in their careers. We celebrate their dedication to the learning of the pupils and their own learning.
Over the last two weeks BBC2 have screened ‘No More Boys and Girls – Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’ and it is also available on iPlayer until mid September. You can read more about it here.
Dr Javid Abelmoneim poses some of the most profound questions facing the UK today. Is the way we treat boys and girls in childhood the real reason we still haven’t achieved true equality between men and women in adult life? And could stripping away the pink and blue – and the other more subtle ways that boys and girls are shaped to be different – be the way to raise kids with abilities and attitudes that are the same regardless of their gender?
In two hour-long programmes, Dr Javid sets out to find answers in a bold but simple experiment. He is taking over Year 3 in Lanesend Primary School on the Isle of Wight, aiming to remove all differences in the way boys and girls are treated and to see if, after a term of gender-neutral treatment, he can even out the gaps in their achievement across a range of important psychological measures – from self-confidence to emotional intelligence.
Dr Javid Abelmoneim poses some of the most profound questions facing the UK today. Is the way we treat boys and girls in childhood the real reason we still haven’t achieved true equality between men and women in adult life? And could stripping away the pink and blue – and the other more subtle ways that boys and girls are shaped to be different – be the way to raise kids with abilities and attitudes that are the same regardless of their gender? Dr Javid is taking over Year 3 in Lanesend primary school in the Isle of Wight, aiming to remove all differences in the way boys and girls are treated and to see if, after a term of ‘gender neutral’ treatment, he can even out the gaps in their achievement across a range of important psychological measures – from self-confidence to emotional intelligence.
Before he begins, he wants to understand what the kids themselves think – and their comments are shocking. Aged just seven, these kids have already absorbed the idea that boys are more important than girls, that strong is a word than only applies to boys and that the only thing that girls are better at than boys at is being pretty. As a doctor, Javid knows that there are basic biological differences between the sexes, but he believes our biology can’t fully explain why men and women’s life chances in the UK are still so unequal. He believes that how we treat our children in childhood has to be the deciding factor – and the latest research in how brains develop backs him up.
A visit to Prof Gina Rippon at Aston University, one of the UK’s leading experts in brain imaging and neuroscience, reveals that there is no such thing as a male or female brain type. Instead the brain is a plastic organ, shaped and moulded by experiences in which childhood is key. Giving boys and girls different toys to play with and different experiences as they grow up means that the genders develop different skills and different behaviours. So in theory, giving kids a childhood in which their gender doesn’t define how they are treated should enable to them to develop more equal abilities and attitudes – and ultimately allow them to forge their own paths in life regardless of their gender. But to be sure that his changes really do make a difference, he commissions Dr Stella Mavroveli from the psychometric lab at University College London to record what level of difference there currently is between the boys and girls across the spectrum of school subjects, but also in a range of behaviours and psychological traits from confidence and self-esteem to empathy and social skills. However much he was expecting to find differences between the boys and girls, Dr Javid is shocked by the test results. Girls show a consistent pattern of underestimating their academic abilities and lack confidence and self-esteem in comparison with the boys, while the boys demonstrate a worrying inability to express their emotions in comparison with the girls. The test results are enough to convince class teacher Graham Andre to adopt a broad range of changes and to eradicate from the classroom anything that reinforces the idea that boys and girls are fundamentally different. From the books the kids read to the way they are spoken to, the mission is to emphasize to the kids that gender makes no impact on what they are capable of achieving.
To achieve deeper transformation, Javid designs a series of focused interventions to target some of the children’s mostly deeply held views – from transforming their view of which jobs men and women are able to do to shocking them with the fact that contrary to what they have always believed, girls at their age are just as strong as boys. An emotional breakthrough for shy and under-confident girl Lexi convinces Javid his gender neutral approach is starting to work, but if he is to achieve real change he realises he is going to have to take his mission out of the school gates and into the kids’ home lives.
Out of school, Javid is astonished at how much childhood has changed since he was growing up. Clothes and toys have become a tsunami of pink and blue – ensuring that boys and girls play with toys that encourage very different behaviours. Boys playing with construction toys develop spatial awareness skills that girls simply don’t while surrounded by princess play outfits and dolls. He challenges the parents of Mr Andre’s class to clear out all of the gendered toys and clothes – and to change the way they divide housework and childcare. Will the parents get on board? And will Dr Javid’s gender neutral mission have produced meaningful change when he repeats his tests at the end of term?
How do the experiences shown in these episodes relate to your school and the pupils you support?
As a student of education there are many sources that you use to gather information to support your studies. As you begin your course you will be introduced to university resources to help you access academic books and journal articles that will be crucial to your study. before that though you can look around for other sources of information and research.
This evening, for example, there is a documentary on Channel 4 called ‘Excluded at Seven’.
Inclusion and the management of behaviour is an issuer of concern to everyone who works in education. If you watch this documentary try to take an objective view, rather than a subjective or emotive view. Ask yourself how the scenarios shown relate to your experience and also how they relate to your school policy and education legislation.
There is a link here to take you to the government’s School discipline and exclusions information page.
On the radio there are more opportunities to begin to think about areas relevant to your study. A series called ‘Bring Up Britain’ on Radio 4 explores issues such as nuturing critical thinking in children, raising happy children and summer learning loss in the summer holidays. There is a list of episodes here. You can browse this list and find a few that interest you to listen to.
As you watch and listen remember that these are sources made for an audience of the general public, not for students who are studying education. As a student of education you need to consider where the information that underlies these documentaries comes from and how reliable it is. In some of them, or in the supporting information about them, you will find reference to research and academic studies and it is these that you should find and read to more deeply into the subject.
Look out for other interesting opportunities to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the wider world of education on Tv and radio.
Last week Sophie Burrows, from Into Film, came to work with the FDLT year 1 groups to introduce stop motion animation as a technique for engaging learners.
Sophie introduced the group to the basic principles that underpin stop motion animation: persistence of vision. We looked the work of Eadweard Muybridge, an early pioneer of photographic and moving image projection. We also looked at making thaumotropes as an easy way into to demonstrating this concept to children. You can read more about this and other optical toys here: thaumotropes.
Sophie introduced us to three types of stop motion animation:
silhouette (using a light box)
claymation (using plasticine)
and the free app Stop Motion Studio. After playing a little with app to explore its functions the students worked in groups to make a short animation using any of the techniques above. They then edited the films using the app iMovie which gave them the opportunity to add sound and music.
Making stop motion animations draws upon a huge range of skills, knowledge and understanding and can be a great opportunity to plan meaningful and engaging learning opportunities across the curriculum for learners. Here’s a padlet of examples to get you thinking!
Its June, its Spring and its half term: the perfect time to start a new challenge!
The 30 days wild challenge asks us to make room for nature. You can sign up here to receive a wallchart and ideas pack. You’re asked to perform a random act of wildness each day: this is something that brings a little bit of nature into your life. There are lots of ideas on the 3o days wild website, as well blog posts and links to local events.
As with many initiatives now you can also follow what’s happening on social media:
On Monday I was lucky to attend a creative session in the School Experience Library, at Park Campus, University of Northampton. This session, arranged by Academic Librarian, Hannah Rose and Library Learning Services, brought two author illustrators to share with us their approaches to writing and illustrating.
First Birgitta Sif shared with us her journey to being an author illustrator and her process of writing. Birgitta’s first books was ‘Oliver’, a book about a little boy who was different and how he found friendship. As she read it to us she helped us look more carefully at how the illustrations enriched the text and gave us clues and extra surprises. These included searching for a mouse who present in each picture, finding a character who appeared in the middle of the story actually appears in the previous pictures too and using the text inside the pictures to guide us in the story.
She also showed us how she makes a story by making small sketches to get to know her characters, making tiny prototype books and by drawing the world of the character and the places and people or animals the character encounters. She draws from life and imagination and when she is stuck she goes for walks outside and plays with her children.
Then Dave Barrow shared his work with us. His first book was ‘Have you seen elephant?’, a book about a game of hide’n’seek with great visual jokes throughout. As Dave read it to us he helped us understand how he had drawn the illustrations by sketching from life, from videos and trying things out for himself.
Dave also did some live drawing taking ideas from children to give us ideas about how to construct a character through drawing and talking. We could really see how this could lead to imaginative stories as the children talked with Dave. Dave helped them think about how the personality and characteristics of a character could be apparent in a drawing as well how to show clues about the character in the picture so that they didn’t have to be stated in the text. he also showed us how to show the size and scale of a character. He also answered questions about how long it takes to write a story, how many drafts it takes and how sometimes an idea has to be let go to improve the story.
What can we learn?
Make little prototype books to try out and sequence ideas.
Draw and sketch from life.
If you get stuck go outside for a walk.
Practice drawing if you want to improve.
Draw a character to get know it before you start to write it into a story.
Link characteristics of the character with the story you’re going to write.
Keep drafting and improving.
Some of these are things you might try in school or when you are writing.
As part of the session we also made our own character to take away and maybe write a story about, inevitably, mine was a cat!
This week both FDLT Year 1 groups visited Newton Field Centre in Northamptonshire.
They explored how a visit to a Field Centre could support learning in geography, science,history and art. The Field centre teacher, Georgina Hand and a University of Northampton lecturer, Ken Bland, led activities such as measuring the flow of the river, measuring the profile of the river, collecting and classifying invertebrates from the river and using them to measure the environmental quality of the water. The subject knowledge associated with these areas is crucial when supporting learning and this is an area where visiting a field centre with specialist teaching staff can be invaluable to schools.
The students also explored the molehills in the field to collect rocks and stones an these were compared and classified later. The app iGeology and large scale maps of the area are useful resources for this kind of activity. They explored the field for evidence of human use in the past – the pond and the dovecote both being sources of food for the large house that used to exist on the site.
Whilst in the field the students created land art using just the resources available to them in the large field. Because of the time of year there were lots of dandelions in flower and as clocks – a great source of material for making. It was interesting to see of the range of art made featuring circles, lines, colour, contrasts, using techniques such as weaving, placing and pressing down. By now it will all have changed and returned to nature. Finally the students collected leaves to make their own key to the vegetation at newton as a model for making a key on their school sites using the plants around them.
We are very lucky to have our own Forest School at Park Campus, University of Northampton. A few weeks ago the FDLT Year 2 students spent a morning there as part of their learning Beyond the Classroom module to explore more about the Forest School experience.
An album of photos of their experience can be seen here.
Some of us who teach on FDLT, BALT and other education courses along with students and local teachers are part of an Erasmus+ project called Digital learning Across Boundaries – DLAB for short. We are working with educators in Belgium, Denmark and Norway.
In May we are sharing a free online course based around our theme this year; using digital technology to support learning outside. The materials will be based around our themes:
art in the environment
You can read more about the course and sign up here.
If you are working in schools you will be able to access stimulating and creative approaches and activities that you can use with your pupils. Part of the course will be based around online sharing of activities and outcomes through a Google Community.
The project has a twitter account: @DLAB_Erasmus and a website where you can find more details and examples from the project.