Birthorpe Walk 053.JPGJust lately I have spent a lot of time looking up at the sky, and noticing how differnt it looks from day to day and from moment to moment.

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I remember a colleague at my old school who took her whole Y2 class outside to lay on the playgound and watch the clouds.  More recently a colleague in my new work place told me about a lesson when she did exactly the same with her Y5 class.

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And yet I have worked with other people who say things like

“We haven’t got time to be faffing about like that; there is so much curriculum to cover!”

So sad!  I have tried to say to these people

“You haven’t go time not to be faffing around like this when there is so much curriculum to cover!”

But my arguments fall on deaf ears.  And I do understand where these sentiments come from.  People who work in schools feel under incredible pressure to cover a vast amount of material.

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It is no wonder that people feel pressurised to find materials that cover the learning objectives as exactly as possible. That way no time is wasted teaching anything that doesn’t need to be covered.  It does seem common sense that if one concentrates on what needs to be taught it is likely to be taught more exactly and thoroughly than if one is diverted by other things.

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However, lessons mapped exactly to the learning objectives can often be dry and uninspiring.  The curriculum may be faithfully covered but it may not be reliably learned.  Lessons that go off on tangents and follow the interests of children and teachers or which respond to the world around are much more likely to be memorable.  They are also likely to make connections with learner’s current understanding; learning is likely to be deeper and more meaningful.

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My colleague’s class of Y2s after spending time watching clouds, watching a dvd about the water cycle, watching a kettle boil and taking part in a drama activity about the water cycle went on to write some of the best science writing I have ever seen from such young children.  Not just one or two children in the class; nearly every child produced a piece of work of which they and their teacher could be justifiably proud.  This was not only in terms of their science learning but their English too.  In fact a science subject leader who had come to work with me asked if the literacy subject leader from her school could come and spend some time with us as well.

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My colleague wasn’t only deviating slightly from the curriculum; she was completely off piste!  The water cycle was definitely not on the Y2 curriculum.  And yet the children’s education would have been much poorer if she had not taken that risk; not taken the time to really explore something that fascinated both her and the class.

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My colleague was an extremely experienced teacher and had been teaching for more than thirty years.  No doubt this gave her the confidence to teach in a way that she knew would work whatever current curriculum guidelines might suggest.  However, I believe that all teachers, and their pupils, could learn from her experience.


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Yesterday I went for a walk to look at puddles.  In particular I was looking at the way light and images were reflected in them.  Sadly, I forgot to put the memory card in my camera when I went out in the rain so I didn’t get any pictures of rain drops falling into puddles.

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I love the juxtaposition of the squalid, grubby winter paths and the sublime images reflected in the puddles.

It was much harder to capture the clouds than the trees reflected in them.

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Some were too muddy to have any reflections at all.

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This one reminded me of Escher’s picture.


I love puddles!  They are a wonderful opportunity to combine science learning with poetry and art.  I would love to hear about your experiences of teaching with puddles.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

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Do you remember saying this rhyme when you were a child, and the weather stopped you going outside?  Sometimes it is teachers that mutter it under their breath when yet another wet playtime is called.  No time to get things ready for the next lesson, a classroom full of children messing things up and  afterwards fidgity children not able to concentrate on their work after being cooped up all day.

I wonder though, how often it is not necessary to have wet play?  Some schools hardly ever stop the children going outside whereas others seem to regularly decide that the weather is unfit for going out.  Wet play was not common at my school nevertheless, more often than not, my colleague and I would get our coats on and take our class out anyway ‘just for five minutes’.  So often five minutes would stretch to twenty and really it wasn’t so bad at all once we were outside.  You can be sure that some of our colleagues would send their classes out too once they realised that we were out and saw for themselves that when we came in the children were only a little damp.

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There are those who would argue that when the weather is as grey and damp as this it does not matter if children miss the occasional play time.  What harm could it possibly do?  However, I believe that when we call wet play we are doing more than denying the children twenty minutes of exercise.  We are giving them a strong message that when the weather is inclemment it is better to stay inside, to get in the car, to avoid doing what we had planned to do.  In the long term this is likely to have a negative impact on their health as they will be more sedentary than they might have been.  Moreover, they are likely to miss so much about the experience of being out in the rain which really is not as bad as you might think.

The day after I posted this I was in a school while Storm Imogen raged outside; going out in that would have been madness!