Sutton needs you!

I work for a non-profit organisation that is lottery funded, called the Sutton Play Project around the commitments of my teacher training university course. We go to parks in the Plymouth area on weekday evenings, provide play days during school holidays as well as visit a local school to deliver free play activities for children.

The importance of play in a child’s development cannot be underestimated. It contributes significantly to their physical, mental and social well-being and helps them to build communication and problem solving skills in a social environment. Ourselves as play rangers and parents take tremendous pleasure in seeing children enjoy the activities and clearly learn skills that will benefit them in school and the real world going forward.

Regrettably, the funding for the project is coming to an end and there are no imminent plans for it to be renewed. Our equipment and van is looking rather outdated too which is not helping the cause.

It’s rare that parents get a chance to go to a free event with their children nowadays and the project is loved by all of our community.

We want to keep on helping children to develop so we are appealing to you generous people to help us out and any donation big or small would be hugely appreciated. These will enable us to continue without the lottery funding and begin to upgrade our play equipment and continue to supply the much loved sessions.

Thank you for reading.


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It’s in your hands!

The management of behaviour is often sadly misinterpreted as merely dealing with poor behaviour and the sanctions that should be associated with this. There is so much more to it than this though.

There are occasions where bad behaviour may persist, which requires an intervention from the teacher and the threat of a later sanction. However, an effective way of dealing with a problem is to allow the child to be responsible for and to regulate their own behaviour. It is up to them to make wise choices about whether they choose to follow instructions or face the consequences for opting against them. The benefits of this are that the child can take ownership of their behaviour, meaning they are in control of how they decide to act. Also, self regulation provides an opportunity for peer and self management strategies to take effect. These include peer mentoring, playground supervisors and goal setting techniques that encourage children to be autonomous in resolving arguments and coming to mutually amicable agreements. Rogers (2015) puts forward an example of a scenario where a teacher speaks to a child who is repeatedly calling out whilst others are talking and is leaving their seat to walk around the room, showing that they are unfocused on their task. Instead of the teacher confronting them aggressively saying ”Why are you shouting out?” they politely but quizzingly asked ”What are the rules when others are talking?” which required the child to refer to the set of class rules created by everyone at the beginning of the year. That way they were able to instantly notice their behaviour was not acceptable and that they would forfeit any form of reward.


This leads nicely on to my next point about other ways of taking responsibility for your own behaviour. Having a class target and reward can hand over responsibility to the class, who can use peer management strategies to ensure everyone is on track. Rewarding them with a whole class treat can sometimes be effective and shows appreciation of their efforts. The same approach can apply when giving sanctions, although penalising a whole class for a few individuals’ behaviour is not advised (Shelton and Brownhill, 2008). Individual rewards can also be given out through employing a system where each child’s behaviour is displayed via a peg or sun, cloud, rain system. These are examples of extrinsic rewards and motivators which do have a place in the primary classroom as they can spur children on and contribute to the teacher-class relationship, however ultimately instrinsic motivation where the child is self-determined to regulate their own behaviour for the benefit of their own and their peers’ learning is what we want to instil.

If you have any other proven strategies, feel free to contribute.

Alex 🙂


Rogers, B. (2015) Classroom Behaviour (4th Edn). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Shelton, F. and Brownhill, S. (2008) Effective Behaviour Management in the Primary Classroom. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

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Guided reading

Guided reading is an essential part of the school day which is sometimes not given the merit it deserves and the time children need. In addition, sessions can often seem rushed with poor practise creeping in to the way sessions are organised. The Simple View of Reading model puts forward that both word recognition and language comprehension need to be developed if children are to become competent readers (Gough and Tumner, 1986). This means that they are able to decode the words using their phonic knowledge of segmenting and blending sounds, as well as understanding the purpose of texts and deriving meaning from them. For this to occur, sessions need to be structured appropriately to allow time for both of these skills to improve.

Rose Report (2006)

Rose Report (2006)

The first model appropriate for children working up to Level 2c is the Early model, which takes place over one session  and consists of a book introduction, independent reading time then responding to the text. This can easily fit in with the likes of the Biff and Chip books and is more appropriate for lower Key stage 1 generally.

Next is the transitional model which is used for children working up to level 3. Generally two guided sessions will be needed for this model to succeed. The first session focuses on the book introduction, strategy check and allows independent reading time. Whilst children are reading at their own pace, silent reading should be introduced. This is to develop the skills of meaning making when reading independently. This is something that is neglected in some guided reading sessions, where you see one child reading aloud and the others passively watching them. As a result, they are unable to fully engage with the book, which means they are not developing their own decoding skills and can’t fully comprehend the events according to their personal opinion because it is influenced by the session being dominated by group discussion with no time to self-reflect. Because books at this stage are generally longer, it is not possible to read the whole book in one session. Once the children have done some reading in the session they can be asked to read the rest of the book before the second session , where the focus should be on returning to and responding to the text. This is where the group discussion should be held for children to contribute their views on the text and the teacher to ask probing questions related to a specific assessment focus target.

Finally children at level 3B upwards will use the fluent model of guided reading. Here it is not necessary for children to read the text during the guided sessions as they usually have the confidence to decode the words. What is more important is that they discuss the meaning that they make from the text which will form the basis of the group discussion. Therefore the session tends to focus on return to text and response to the text for both fiction and non-fiction texts.


If you were reading Hansel and Gretel, an old favourite from my childhood and wanted to focus on AF3 and gain assessment evidence for the criterion of ‘responses to text show meaning established at a literal level or based on personal speculation’, it may be necessary to ask questions such as What reasons did the stepmother have for evicting Hansel and Gretel from the house? Where is the evidence for this in the text? How do you think the old witch felt when Hansel was apparently not fattening up? Asking these types of questions initially can then prompt further discussion and an interchange of justified opinions.

Feel free to share any other examples of tried and trusted guided reading pedagogy? I would love to hear some.

Alex 🙂

Ref: Gough, P. B. & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability.  Remedial and Special Education, 7, 6-10.

Rose, J. (2006). Independent review of the teaching of early reading. Department for Education and


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Time is a thing like a bird on a wing!


Time management is often put forward as one of the most important things to get right early on as a teacher. Such is the significant workload, there comes a point when the number of tasks can weigh a teacher down and have a negative influence on the quality of their teaching.

I am determined to ensure my time management is effective from the beginning of my teaching career as I have had an insight into taking responsibility for everything already from my placements. As a result, I have done some research and background reading to pick up some vital tips which can help me to achieve a balance between work and home life, as well as ensuring children receive the best possible teaching and feedback.

time 2

Despite this, I am now interested in gaining some top tips from my peers and teachers who have had experience dealing with this increasingly pertinent issue. I would be really grateful for your responses and look forward to reading and acting upon them.

Alex 🙂

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In their element

Following on from a tremendous lecture delivered by Rob Bennett earlier this week, I was inspired to blog about the theme discussed of creativity and risk-taking and how teachers can facilitate this. This is an issue that is sadly seen as being suppressed by the National Curriculum as a result of the emphasis on testing preparation and teachers feeling under pressure to get through content. Consequently dull, transmissive and uninspiring lessons are delivered which restrict children’s scope to discover through problem solving, as well as prevent them from utilizing hidden talents and skills.

Instead, more effective pedagogy shows awareness of children’s elements, which is defined as the point at which natural talent (aptitude) meets personal passion for a skill. These are the features of a child being in their element and to take advantage elements should be jointly exploited by the child and teacher, consisting of opportunities to demonstrate their skills and improve them. An example is a child being given time to harness a particular sporting or musical talent, which is unlikely to occur if Literacy and Maths are always defaulted to by teachers and children are not given opportunities to problem solve via use of their elemental skill.

Regrettably, children’s hidden special talents remain hidden because of uninspiring curriculum coverage. This is where the conditions of children being in their element apply: attitude and opportunity. The attitude can be determined as the teacher’s willingness to embrace uncertainty with the direction a lesson will take, knowing that it could open up a new path of creativity as a result of children’s elements being discovered. The opportunity is the priority they give to doing this, as well as allowing children to find their own element. This is the perfect tonic for children who put themselves down regularly due to standard, common subjects being a weakness. Through discovering children’s elements they can be guided to reach their full potential and it is essential teachers make every effort to understand their children’s strengths to achieve this.

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Expanding my horizons…

I’ve arrived at my final year of Teacher Training in Plymouth, which seems to have passed extraordinarily quickly. As part of my preparations for the upcoming, very important year and beyond, I’ve been looking into potential placement/school experience opportunities away from the South West. There is the offer on the table of completing my final placement after Christmas in the London borough of Redbridge, which I’m seriously considering. I have researched the area and found information surrounding its diversity, catchment area and number of schools but I’m looking for more…

As much as I’ve taken a lot away from my experiences within the South West, I want to experience working with many ethnicities, where there are a substantial number of EAL learners and to feel confident in communicating and forming a trustworthy working collaboration between parents, children and myself. I would like to see if the London culture is wholly diffferent to the South West and to introduce some pedagogical ideas I have discovered, particularly in my Digital Literacy specialism, with a view to integrating some of them in their learning environments.

Whilst I am still considering this opportunity, I thought I would gauge the opinion of the fabulous twitter community and my PLN and would really appreciate feedback from anyone who has had first hand experience of teaching and learning this area or from anyone who can offer me some advice in making this decision.

Thank you!

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I want a sticker!

On the back of my Digital Literacy and Education Studies sessions a couple of weeks ago, it has got me thinking about the Intrinsic motivation versus positive reinforcement reward debate. This has long been considered and I know schools have very different approaches to how they see pupil success and excellent effort.

Some like to operate reward schemes where they give children stickers and treats, especially in Key Stage 1 and team points and placing them in a position of authority in Key Stage 2. Other schools don’t believe in this system and don’t reward children in this objective way as they believe children should be intrinsically motivated to perform to the best of their ability and aspire to reach beyond it. This is because children need to develop a desire to learn and have the willingness to learn something from an activity as opposed to doing something to just please the teacher or their parents. This has the danger of restricting children’s potential as they do what they think is best and stay within their comfort zone, instead of making their own purposeful learning discoveries, which may have had the potential to push their learning on to a higher cognitive level.   Children also need to learn that they will grow up in a world that is not full of extrinsic motivators all the time. For example to earn a living in the future, they are doing that for themselves where there is very much an internal locus of cointrol. This means they are the ones in charge of their fate so there needs to be a sufficiently strong desire to do things for their own benefit and not to get rewards or avoid negative outcomes.

On the other hand, Extrinsic motivation is sometimes seen as beneficial, because it is seen as inducing interest in a subject where the child may have had no desire to learn in at all previously. This is especially effective for children with learning difficulties or behavioural problems as they can often struggle to make connections between the activity they are doing and the final outcome. Also they can be a good feedback indicator allowing pupils to know they are at a level that suggests they have engaged well enough with the task, and then peers can see that a child has gained this reward, hence promoting their motivation to try hard to gain a reward too. Also Extrinsic motivation can  make children feel more comfortable in the classroom as a result of this and this then increases intrinsic motivation.

There is a definite link here between the two. Intrinsic motivation has the danger of decreasing or easing off when rewards are given out for the sake of it when it’s clearly evident a child can do better and push themselves more. For example if a child goes home at the end of every day and describes their day saying I did this and that and the parents praise them when the truth is they did very little, the child will think to themselves I can get away here with doing very little, consequently reducing their intrinsic motivation. Alternately offering children rewards for doing something well may not affect intrinsic motivation because if the child is enjoying learning about something already and then an extrinsic reward is presented too, the child is going to be more willing if anything to reach this level. As you can see this is an ongoing debate in Education especially in primary where I would argue that Intrinsic motivation needs to be the dominant one as much as possible and needs to be encouraged but also Extrinsic motivation is perhaps more useful than in secondary, where it should be predominantly intrinsic.

Thanks for reading! Alex 🙂

Ps: Next post will be on the topic of computer dependency and phobia.

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