Head Teacher BLOG
Martin Luther King Day
This week we spent our Monday assembly learning the movement for change led by Martin Luther King. The subject is big, we reviewed what racism meant, what unfairness felt like and the children listened to the song by Sam Cooke - Change is gonna come.
Reading aloud with your children.
Spending a few moments of time sharing a book with your child is very precious and rewarding.
I have been looking into how to read aloud to, and also reading with children.
This blog which I found on the Book Trust's website has some effective 'top-tips' for reading aloud to children. It has been written by Children's author Alex Foulkes and is packed full of great hints and tips- well worth a read!
What did you do at school today?
How many times have you asked your child - What did you do at school today? ....... "Nothing!" I hear them say. I know they have all done something and have all learned something - be it how to add fractions, how to spell because or Where the Vikings fought. They may have also learned how to play together, how to take turns, how to cut up their dinner... children learn all through the day.
We want them to be able to remember something to tell you about at the end of the day and for this their working memory needs to be extended.
This article explains about Working Memory.
“It’s keeping in mind anything you need to keep in mind while you’re doing something.”
When your child comes out from school maybe you will get a more fulfilling response if you:-
- Dont ask the question until they have had some food and are settled at home.
- Maybe start with - You will never guess what I learned today?
- Or say, can you tell me one thing you enjoyed doing today at school?
- What do you know now that you did not know before school today?
- Can you pretend to be a teacher and teach me the maths from today? etc etc.
I am sure many answers will be the same every day, but a few nuggets may come out. If they do - please email me... head@Gorefield.cambs.sch.uk
You need to know your timestables - they are the foundation
Experts in cognitive psychology have shaped our understanding of how children learn mathematics. What their work tells us is fascinating - and it makes perfect sense to parents and teachers.
The Working Memory Bottleneck
Dr Abadzi, a cognitive scientist at University of Texas, argues that people are “basically prisoners to their working memory”, which contains everything in their minds at any given moment.
Working memory can only hold a small amount of information and it lasts only a few seconds, so the information must pass through it rapidly or it gets lost. Working memory can become a bottleneck in our brain function - making even simple thought processes feel complex as we go forwards and backwards get to the answer.
Speed is Critical
But there is a way round the working memory bottleneck. Research shows that when children practise tasks like mental arithmetic, it becomes automatic and unconscious, freeing up space in the working memory for more complex calculations.
This means it's not enough simply to be able to work out a calculation - what matters is getting it right and how fast you can recall the answer.
Working memory is also limited in capacity - studies show on average we can only hold 7 items in memory for 12 seconds.
Put simply - as soon as item no 8 pops into the working memory another item falls out to make way. However, rapid recall of maths facts allows learners to jump the queue - avoiding the working memory bottleneck.
It's also clear that focus and concentration go hand-in-hand with developing working memory. If a learner is distracted while doing a maths calculation, it easily overloads their working memory and disrupts their thinking.
Explicit and Implicit Memory
We have two types of long-term memory - psychologists call these explicit and implicit.
The explicit memory is the bit we're aware of - such as being able to recall a fact such as the name of a capital city. Explicit memory gets all our attention and yet its potential is dwarfed by its big sister, the implicit memory - the iceberg under the water.
Implicit memory is the unconscious memory of skills and how to do things, such as playing guitar or riding a bike. These memories are typically acquired through repetition and practice, and are composed of automatic skills so deeply embedded that we're no longer aware of them.
By helping children truly master the essential foundation skills in maths we shift the load from their conscious explicit memory to their unconscious implicit memory. With this comes a level of maths fluency needed to excel in higher order maths skills - such as analytic thinking and complex problem solving.
Teachers are in the construction business.
Memory networks are like bricks and mortar. If you want the second floor - it had better start after your put the first one in Dr. Abdazi
The Importance of Practice
It's interesting that after acquiring fluent skills we tend to forget the effort and practice that developed them - but this makes perfect sense because we've made them unconscious.
The danger is we also lose respect for the amount of effort and practice it takes for our children to acquire the same skills. Dr. Abdazi explains the science behind acquiring fluent skills in maths:
Memories are stored in neural connections;
Few neural connections are created at a time - because it involves building proteins which takes time;
We remember best the information we saw most recently and most often;
Practice and repetition over time works.
The cognitive science of learning mathematics, however compelling, isn't the same as real evidence. Fortunately, academic research into learning mathematics has tracked many learners over their entire school life looking for vital statistical connections between early learning and later success.
The conclusions are pretty clear - and they support the cognitive science:
What does that mean for us at Gorefield Primary Academy?
Please please practise timestables and numberbonds with your children. We spend time in school doing this, we share songs, watch videos, chant and also carry out activities that encourage rapid recall of our work. There are games you can buy,
This is a list of resources that you could use at home.
Card Game of Timestables - £2 from the Book people
Timestables Rock stars – Why not say children have to do 15 minutes on that before they are allowed tablet time? Children have passwords as we provide this for them in school.
Percy Parker - Timestables– Search on You Tube – great way to sing along as a family
Recite them on the way into school.
Number bonds to 10 and 100 and Number bond pairing is another fluency skill that when sent to implicit memory will aid mathematical performance. (4 and 6 - 30 and 70, 200 and 800 etc)
Thankyou for your continued support.
Words Words Words -
Our children need to be exposed to more vocabularly. How many times do you feel that you use the same words and that there must be a word that would fit better? We have investigated many tools and research which other schools have used and it is clear that Mrs Wordsmith is the right resource for our school. Their ethos is based on research. Please see a summary of their journey below.
Quote from Mrs Wordsmith -
Our team of experts led by lexicographer Ian Brookes have used data science and corpus linguistic techniques to identify 10,000 words that make a real difference to children’s academic success – and which can rapidly accelerate your child’s literacy level.
So, how did Ian and the team arrive at 10,000? Let’s crunch the numbers.
1 million → 42,000:
The English language is mind-bogglingly vast. The Global Language Monitor claimed that English acquired its one-millionth word in 2009, and continues to acquire new words at the rate of one every 98 minutes.
However, this figure counts everything that could possibly be considered as a word, including lots of one-off inventions and obscure coinages that would not be understood by many people.
Most words, furthermore, are variations on a core of 42,000 ‘root words’. For example, the word ‘happy’ has numerous related forms: ‘happily’, ‘happiness’, ‘happier’, and so on. Learning just one variation of these root words provides a base for acquiring all the others.
42,000 → 37,000:
Not all root words are equal, however. Some, like ‘happy’, are so common that children don’t need to consciously study them – they’ll learn them anyway. We used data science to identify 5,000 of these ‘easy’ words, and removed them from our list.
37,000 → 10,000:
27,000 root words, though, are obscure words that most of us manage very well without unless we are scientists, academics, crossword enthusiasts, or Scrabble players. English is full of technical or old-fashioned words that children are unlikely to ever encounter, let alone be expected to use, by the age of 17. Words like ‘sphygmomanometer’, or ‘curglaff’, for example – discarded from our list,
The 10,000 words that matter:
That leaves us, then, with the 10,000 words that children really need to learn:
challenging words that develop children’s comprehension, writing, and analytical skills, and enhance their achievement across the curriculum. These are the words that children will encounter in the best literature, and which make up our 10,000 Word Journey.
About Ian Brookes
Ian Brookes is Mrs Wordsmith’s chief lexicographer. He is the former editor-inchief of The Chambers Dictionary and has led or contributed to the creation of over 50 dictionaries and reference books from Chambers, HarperCollins, and Oxford University Press.
With the research done we decided how this would have the most impact on the children, and it soon became clear that immersion was the way forward. We purchased dictionaries and picture books. If you want to see these then please go to www.uk.mrswordsmith.com
From the Spring term 2020 children in KS2 at Gorefield Primary Academy will be learning new words every week. The words will be taught using the methods which have worked at another school in our trust. The words will be displayed in the classrooms. The words will be displayed around school and children will be encouraged to not only use these in their speech but also in their writing - that is how we will see the impact. The developers of Mrs Wordsmith have partnered with a team of award-winning Hollywood artists who transport these words into the progressive, culturally diverse, and technologically advanced world children now live in. Epic words, taught in an epic way, making smarter kids! All the words have associated actions that the children can personalise. This too helps memorising the words for future use.
As is the way at Gorefield Primary Academy, we would ask that Parents and Carers support us with this. We acknowledge that the impact will be felt more if children are exposed to the words both at home and school.
Teachers will use some of the following techniques:-
- Create a class list of words around topics or snynonyms of words
- Put the word in a sentence
- Actions that describe words
- Opposite of words – antonyms
- Use the word to start a story
- Use the word during a conversation at break time.
- Find the word in a book
- What type of sentences would use this word?
- Can you put it into a question?
- What word family is it?
- Investigate words in a book – look at a chapter – complete the word search table.
Children will be rewarded when they use the words and they will soon be able to see how by using their newly acquired vocabulary their writing becomes more interesting.
How can parents help?
1) Ask children which words they covered in Monday's assembly. All children will learn the first word on Monday morning. KS2 children - Class 3 and 4 will then also get two other words during the week. Class 2 and Zebras will just have the one word a week. Ask them the action that goes with the word.
2) Have a competition at home of who can use the words the most.
3) Check the words on Twitter weekly.
4) Inform the class teacher or Head Teacher if children do use the words at home. Email office@Gorefield.cambs.sch.uk (impact)