RE Session 6: Assessing RE, Reviewing Planning and PSHE

Our objectives for our final session of RE were to know about assessment in RE. Our second objective was to be able to evaluate planning to include assessment.

Our first activity was to discuss how teachers and parents feel about RE, within our table groups before then feeding back to the rest of the group. I think that we came to a group consensus, that the majority of parents are a bit unsure when it comes to their understanding of religious. We felt that parents don’t always understand the importance of RE being taught in school and that they may also be unsure what the teaching of RE entails. We also agreed that with teachers there may also be a degree of uncertainty when it comes to religious education. One reason for this is because a teacher may have taken either a PGCE degree or a GTP in which case they won’t have had as much training about RE and therefore may not be familiar with everything that the teaching of RE covers, in comparison to a BA Primary Ed student where they have three years of training and therefore may feel more secure within their knowledge and teaching of RE.

After that, we then moved on to discuss the question ‘Is Religious Education hindered, or at an advantage, as an academic subject because it is not regulated in the same way as other curriculum subjects?’ Overall everyone agreed that it was a bit of both (a hindrance and an advantage). It can be viewed as an advantage, because it means that teachers have a degree of freedom in the way in which they teach and assess RE. However, it can also be a hindrance because it is not a part of the National Curriculum it is often disregarded as not being an important subject because of this, which is not the case! We also discussed that from observations on placements we have noticed that RE is often taught by TAs in PPA time, which again shows complete disregard for RE as an important academic subject.

It is then important to consider what comes first… Plan? Assess? Or Teach?

We had the task to discuss this on our table I said assess because you can’t plan without taking into consideration children’s prior learning (which is gained from assessment). However, some other people believe that planning or teaching comes first. I think that there are arguments to support all of them coming first i.e. you can’t teach without planning first, and you can’t assess without first teaching a lesson. Although this is the case, we eventually came to the consensus that assessment comes first as you can’t plan without looking at assessment data, similarly you can’t teach without planning.

So we were then posed with the next question… how do you assess in RE?

The suggestions that we came up with as a whole group are:

–       Marking the children’s written work

–       Questioning

–       Observation

–       Discussion

–       Debates

–       Sequencing of stories

–       Group work

–       Role play

After this, we watched a clip of a successful RE lesson where its focus was about being reflective. The lesson was really fantastic to watch, particularly from my perspective as I haven’t had the opportunity to observe any RE on placement yet. It also gave me some ideas that I could take away and use in my own teaching practice, this is particularly the case as the lesson focused on meeting requirements from AT2 and I was unsure how to go about this, however I now have a better understanding of how it can be drawn into an RE lesson.

teachers media- session 6

Our next task was to go back to what we had looked at with regard to assessment, and look at a variety of different types of level descriptors that are available or used in schools as a method of assessing RE. We had to work individually to decide what descriptors we would prefer to use and why before then sharing our ideas with the rest of the group. We all agreed that we preferred the idea of using a grid format as it was clearly laid out and easy to read the information, I also found that with this example the examples given were more specific not just general statements. I thought that because of this they could therefore be applied to the classroom situation easily in comparison to the descriptors that were just ‘sweeping’ statements. We then had the opportunity to put our knowledge of the level descriptors to the test and have a go at looking at how another teacher has assessed some children’s work and decide whether or not we agreed or disagreed with the level that they had been given. I thought that the levels which had been given were pretty accurate and were a reflection of both the child’s work and the level descriptors. Reflecting on this task though, I was surprised at how difficult it could be to assess a child’s work within RE particularly if they had expressed their understanding through a drawing. However, I can take away from this that I would need to get to grips more with the level descriptors and how to assess work in RE, something which I currently have had no experience with.

Finally, for this session we discussed PSHE and its place within the new National Curriculum. Which unfortunately it seems to have little place… something which I was not aware of before the start of this session. In the new National Curriculum all that can be found for PSHE is a very small statement. There is no guidance on what children should be taught and what progression they should make as they pass through primary school. Ultimately it can be said, that the government believes that PSHE should be taught in schools, however it is completely up to the teacher how they go about teaching it.

To conclude, I have reached the end of my RE section of my blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed my RE sessions this year, I feel like I have covered a lot of information in a short space of time however I have learnt a lot from that, and hopefully this blog shows the progression that I have made this year. I can’t wait to get into the classroom either on placement or in my future career and put what I have learned in RE into practise.

Computing Session 4: Extending Computing in Key Stage 1

Our objectives for today’s session were to establish ‘where does computer science fit into the curriculum?’, ‘How can we introduce computing skills to children?’, ‘What are the practical implications of teaching programming?’, ‘How can programming promote higher order thinking and problem solving?’

When I first looked at the National Curriculum and saw that ICT had been changed to computing, I initially thought it was just a change in title. However, before this session I also believed that in order for the requirements of the National Curriculum to be met in computing I also thought that this would be achieved through the children working on a computer. However, whilst this is true in the majority of cases it is also important to note that computing does not have to be achieved just through children using the computer, something which I soon discovered and learnt at the beginning of this session.

Elements of computing can be achieved either with or without the use of computing, in this session we explored how computing can be achieved through control programs both on and off the computer. From a pedagogical perspective, in the session we were informed that when starting to look at control programming with younger children (foundation and key stage one) it is best if they have opportunities to experience this through games and activities. This would include games such as simon says, everybody do this, head and shoulders and following directions in PE (cross-curricular approach). It is also important that from a young age, children are made aware of how they experience control within their own environment. This would include features such as: pelican crossings, light in the fridge, security lights, room thermostats, microwave and car park barriers.

Some of the control programming tools, applications and resources we looked at in the session have been listed below, I have spilt them into categories in order to establish the purpose the feature is used for:

–       Patterns and sequences:

–       Incredibox: online music game that allows the user to become a conductor of a group of human beat box

–       isle of tune: an application that allows the user to create an island of music

–       Floor robots:

–       Bee-bots: a programmable floor robot that teaches programming skills and directional language

–       Purple mash:

–       2 DIY: allows the user to create their own interactive flash resources, games, puzzles, activities etc.

–       2 animate: draw, scan or capture images to then create an animation and watch it back

–       Screen robots:

–       Textease turtle: logo program allowing the user to give instructions that are used to control floor robots

–       MSW logo: is an educational programming language

–       Imagine logo: used to control on-screen turtles, create procedures and build activities

–       Ipad apps:

–       Cato’s Hike: a programming application

–       Daisy the dinosaur: an application that introduces children to basic computer programming

–       Monster physics: an activity where the user has to design different ways of propelling objects e.g. rope, joints etc. and they then have to use these to complete missions such as get the fruit to the monster

–       Move the turtle: an application to teach children the basics of programming

–       Toca boca builder: allows the user to create a new world using blocks

–       Hop scotch: an application that teaches children to code using building blocks

Our task for today’s session was to create a lesson idea that combines an unplugged activity, a plugged activity and a real world activity. Both myself and Firouzeh Kern decided to work together to complete this task. We decided that our unplugged activity was going to link to the design and technology section of the curriculum through food and nutrition with the children having a go at making jam sandwiches. They would do this activity in groups with some of the children physically making the sandwich with other children recording each part of the process. After this, the children would then complete a plugged activity by typing up the processes into a flow chart to convey the process of making a jam sandwich. Finally, the children could have another go at making jam sandwiches by following another groups flow chart to see if they can create the sandwich or if steps have been missed out and the sandwich cannot be made because important steps are missing, e.g. using the knife get a small amount of butter out of the container. The reason we came up with activity, was to ensure that children were aware of control processes both on and off the computer. This activity also ensures that children become aware that the processes on and off the computer are linked, and that you need both in order for the whole process to be complete.

Our inspiration for this teaching idea came from the video that we watched at the beginning, which a teacher had used with his class. The video has been included below:

After today’s session I decided to explore some of the tools that were looked at during the session one of which was Bee-bots. This is an application that can be downloaded which corresponds with the floor robots programme Bee-bots. The app is free to download, and works by the user having to control the bee-bot to reach the flower through using the arrow keys displayed on the screen. The levels start off very basic and then progressively get harder. I think this is a great game for children who have not experienced computer programming before and children who may be slightly more advanced in order to provide them with a challenge (particularly on the higher levels!). An image of me having a go can be seen below:

bee bots- session 4

I also had the opportunity to explore the application Cato’s Hike, the reason being I began to explore this app towards the end of this computing session and didn’t properly get the hang of it so I wanted to have a second attempt. The game is another one which can be used by children to teach them how to control programs, it is a game I would not recommend to children who are knew to programming, as I myself found it quite difficult to understand the game and understand how it worked. However that being said, I think it would be a perfect application that could be used for upper key stage 2 and an activity to further more able children’s abilities. Although this is the case, I still prefer applications such as Bee-bot as I think they are a lot easier to navigate and more user friendly. An image of me trying out Cato’s Hike can be seen below:

catos hike-session 4

As some extra reading after the session I decided to read an article which can be accessed via the following web link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/17/to-encourage-creativity-mr-gove-understand. This was an interesting article about the importance of having creativity within school, another interesting fact discussed in the article is the fact that Michael Gove (Secretary for education) is supportive of children being creative, yet with him wanting children to learn everything by rote it is very ironic that that is the case! This a theme that is discussed further within the article it also goes on to discuss how creativity can be achieved within the classroom. An image of the article can be seen below:

article 1- session 4

The second piece of extra reading I decided to conduct was another article which can be found from: http://readwrite.com/2012/05/17/computer-programming-for-all-a-new-standard-of-literacy#awesm=~ovcEWElHjpNQlk. The article was very topical covering an issue which is becoming increasingly more debated within schools ‘computer programming for all: the next literacy?’ The article discusses whether or not computer programming will be viewed of equal importance as literacy in the near future as it is becoming increasingly more important for future generations to have this skill before they go into employment. I felt that this was a very relevant issue, although only time will tell whether or not this will happen in the future, particularly with computer programming making up a good part of the new National Curriculum. Overall I think this an issue that will continue to be debated over the next few years. An image of the article can be seen below:

article 2- session 4

To conclude, before this session I was sceptical as to how computing could be achieved in Key Stage 1 as the idea of Computing is a complex idea. I therefore feel that in order for me to teach what we have learnt in this session well, I need to do more research and have more of a practice at using some of the tools looked at today. However I have enjoyed looking at the variety of tools that are out there to support both pupils and teachers.