Project Work (Senior Classes)

Project work is a staple part of teaching in the senior end of primary school. When done properly, they can develop and a massive variety of skills that go way beyond the scope of the curriculum for that subject. I can’t think of any other activity students take part in that encompasses a wider variety of skills! These include:

  • Researching a topic online and using Word processing and typing skills
  • Communicating with other team members – listening, being clear and concise with their ideas, debating and discussing a variety of options.
  • Writing Skills – putting ideas into their own words, redrafting and editing, proofreading.
  • Designing  a scrapbook or poster – organising their ideas, making it visually pleasing, choosing the most important parts.
  • Public Speaking – standing up in front of a class full of peers to present and discuss their work.

In this post, I’m going to break down how I approach teaching and facilitating projects, from selecting groups, allocating computer, library and independent work time, setting expectations for oral presentations, and ensuring students are learning throughout the process.

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Structure, Frequency and Deadlines

I  do try to mix up how the kids complete their projects. If you assign five history/geography projects, all to be completed in groups of four in randomly-assigned groups, the kids are going to be thoroughly fed up by the end of the year. Here are some options you can choose from:

  • Switch between independent projects and group projects.
  • Provide choice in their projects to engage their interests (e.g. pick a country of your choice/include five of the  categories below).
  • Have the kids include an experiment or design and make a showpiece.
  • Get the students to make a PowerPoint presentation instead of a scrapbook, or use a website like Biteable.com to make an animated video on the chosen topic
  • Interactive Booklets – these are less research heavy and require a lot of cutting and colouring. I like using them straight after a project/scrapbook project as it gives the kids a nice break. See an example here.

How often you complete projects really depends on the ability and attitude of your class. I’m aiming for two per term this year, but as you can see from above, some of them are less time and energy intensive than others.

In terms of a timeframe, I normally give students three full weeks to complete the project. Any shorter and some of them don’t pull it together in time, and any longer, they don’t bother starting it for a week or two. In that three weeks, I might give one hour a week for independent work, two computer classes, and a visit to the school library.

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Assessing and Differentiating

  • Get students to write down three skills they learned when completing their work, and include these ‘personal learning statements’ at the end of their projects.
  • I always provide a rubric for their oral presentations beforehand, so the kids know exactly what I’m looking for. (Click here for a sample rubric). 
  • Provide options on how to complete the project (e.g. a 20-page scrapbook or a poster).
  • Let the students you think will struggle with oral presentations go last, so you can clearly point out what other groups did well.

Other Tips

  • If the project involves an oral presentation, spread them out over three to four days or you’re in for a looooong afternoon!
  • Be very specific on the physical size of posters! It can be a nightmare to try and display work when students hand up 12 A3 pages in an irregular shape that takes up an entire noticeboard on its own – speaking from experience!
  • If students have no access to a colour printer and genuinely need one, stick a piece of paper up on your noticeboard and set a deadline for requests. Otherwise, you can spend an hour Googling and printing images when you want to get around to talk to groups!
  • Have groups contribute one or two questions each to a test on a topic – easy way to assess and engage interest!

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I hope this was of some help to anyone completing project work with their class. If you get it set up properly, and all of your groups are working away on their own, it can make for a very enjoyable few afternoons!

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Completing the Droichead – Start to Finish (My Experience)

If you’re currently in training to become a primary school teacher, the chances are you’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the new ‘Droichead’ induction programme for NQT’s. As I completed the Droichead last year (school year of 17/18), I thought it might be helpful to give an overview of what the process looked like for me.

Naturally, this is just my experience and perspective, and yours may be different depending on your mentors, principal, school environment, and class setting. I completed the Droichead in a 32 classroom-teacher school in Dublin, in a mainstream, mixed, Catholic school.

What is the Droichead?

Simply put, Droichead is the new way to become a fully qualified teacher in Ireland. ‘Droichead’ is the Irish word for ‘bridge’, and the Droichead scheme is there to ‘bridge the gap’ between you being a college student on teaching practice, and being a fully qualified and employed teacher with your own classroom. It replaces the old Dip/Probation Year for teachers. Image result for bridge clipart

The main difference between the two is that the Droichead is (in theory, at least) a support system put in place by the school, allowing qualified and experienced mentors (other teachers in the school) to guide you at the beginning of your teaching career. In contrast, the Dip is essentially an exam from an external inspector – a final test for you to prove yourself before being granted the status of ‘qualified teacher’.

As you can see from this ‘Timeline for Growth Phase’, the Droichead scheme is being gradually phased in, replacing the old ‘Dip’ system. This school year (2018/2019),  if you teach in a school with 16 or more mainstream class teachers, the ‘Droichead’ is the only route of induction you can take (i.e. you can’t complete the Dip). By September 2020, it is proposed to be the only route of induction for all primary schools in the country.

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Registration and Requirements

There are three prerequisite steps to beginning the Droichead process.

  1. The NQT must secure a job which meets the requirements to undertake the Droichead process. See Page 4 of this document for a full break-down, but at a basic level I would say you have to be in a contract that guarantees you 60 consecutive school days.
  2. The school must be registered for Droichead. (see a list of registered schools 18/19 here).
  3. The NQT must be registered with the Teaching Council.

Once those two steps are complete, the process is very simple.

  1. Apply to begin the Droichead process via your Teaching Council login page.
  2. Wait for an email to say that your application has been processed and approved, and download ‘Form D’.
  3. Complete Strand A and Strand B (see below)
  4. Send completed ‘Form D’ to the Teaching Council.
  5. Wait to be confirmed as a fully qualified and probated teacher!

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Strand A and Strand B

As I mentioned above, the Droichead is split into two ‘strands’:

Strand A: School-Based Induction

  1. Teach for a minimum period of 60 consecutive days. My Droichead process lasted from October to the Easter holidays, and this seems to be the timeframe most schools are sticking to.
  2. Engage in ‘Professional Conversations’ (i.e. have a number of meetings with your Support Team).
  3. Observations: Your Support Team decide how many of these are necessary. I went into two different classrooms to observe colleagues teaching a lesson, and I was observed teaching two lessons, one in October, and one in February. It is really important to note that these are not inspections – you are told in advance when you are being observed, and actually go through the lesson plan with your mentor beforehand – it is not a ‘wait for the dreaded knock on the door’ situation! My observations were absolutely fine – again, I went through my lesson plan with my mentors before the observation, so if there were any major issues with the lessons, it was as much their fault for not pointing them out beforehand as mine! They were extremely supportive, full of complements for my lessons and teaching style, and gave me solid, practical advice to carry forward with me in future lessons. I never felt like I was being judged or assessed in any way, and my PST team made me feel empowered and part of the process at all times.
  4. Portfolio/Taisce – again, this is at the discretion of the Support Team in the school, so it can really be anything. I chose to keep a diary for the year, filling it in maybe once a fortnight. Other teachers keep some ‘artefacts’ that they use to reflect on the year, start an Instagram page to document their journey, or take pictures and make a video of their learning in a visual way. This is very open-ended and can really take any shape or form that your PST team supports.

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Strand B: Additional Professional Learning Activities

  1. Attend 3 Cluster Meetings in your local Education Centre (one per term) {N.B. You need to bring your Form D to each one of these to be stamped!}
  2. Attend one other Professional Learning Activity (workshop/conference/attending ‘Féilte’ – once more, this is up to your support team, so basically it’s anything that they agree to!). I chose a PDST art course, which was on a Thursday afternoon for two hours in my education centre, and most other teachers I know of did something similar).

Overall, my experience with the Droichead was extremely positive. In comparison to the horror stories some of my friends have from completing the Dip, (which sounds like a full-year of intense teaching practice) it was practically enjoyable. The paperwork (weekly plans for every subject) was tough, and at times there seemed to be a lot of different elements to the whole process, but overall I would highly, highly recommend focusing on schools that will allow you to complete the Droichead process. I would go as far as to say that you should choose a Droichead school over a non-Droichead one, and that if you do find yourself in a non-Droichead school, you should not apply to complete probation (you have three years after graduating), and wait for the Droichead to be phased into your school.

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I really hope this was of some value to any college students out there completing a B.Ed, PME or Hibernia. If you have any questions, send me a DM at @irishguyteaching on Instagram, or email me at irishguyteaching@gmail.com. The NIPT also have a huge amount of information, FAQ’s, and other documents concerning the Droichead available here.

Thank you so much for reading!

 

 

 

Keeping a Strict Timetable (5th Class)

One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned so far in teaching is keeping a strict timetable.

I make my timetable at the beginning of the week, and then convince myself that somebody else has given it to me, and that I absolutely must stick to it, no matter what. (I think of it like secondary school, where you have to physically move to another class and to another teacher for every lesson). If I schedule Science for Thursday afternoon, then that’s when it’s happening. If something gets in the way, (e.g. an unexpected assembly or visit), then the lesson gets pushed onto the following week or it just doesn’t get taught. My timetable generally looks the same week to week, unless we have an external teacher coming in for P.E, or if I need to pair high and low energy lessons, as I’ll get into below.

Flexibility is an essential skill in teaching, and of course there are times when I have to work around other people’s time, and be ready to adapt. If five or six kids are out sick then I probably won’t start a new Maths topic on a Monday morning. If the kids are getting really into an activity and it’s going over time, I’ll shorten my next lesson and work around it. As far as possible however, I try to stick to what I’ve planned for the week.

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I like having this strict schedule for two main reasons. Firstly, as it allows me to plan my week on a Sunday morning, and drastically cut the time I spend on work after school during the week – I used to be happy if I had my fortnightly plan printed, and knew what I was doing for the day going in on Monday morning. Then I’d end up staying in for an hour or two every day planning the next day’s lessons! Now I force myself to write down what I’m doing, what I’ll need, and what exactly I have to make/photocopy/laminate for the entire week on a Sunday, and I find that having this to-do list cuts hours off my time during the week.

Secondly, it allows me to optimize the balance between quiet work and active learning, independent tasks and group activities, writing and discussion – you get the idea. If that week’s History lesson is hands-on, and includes videos and group tasks and presenting to the class, then I might balance it out with reading our novel afterwards. If I have to cover a grammar point using a PowerPoint and a worksheet, then I’ll swap around my speaking and writing Irish lessons so the kids don’t fall asleep. I’ve found this has made a huge difference to the energy in my classroom since I started paying attention to it at the beginning of the year!

I find that the kids in my class absolutely love knowing what their schedule for the day is. I use these cards from ‘Class of Creativity’ every day to show what we will doing on the whiteboard, and the kids always read it as soon as they come in. It also stops (or reduces, at least!) those questions that drive you up the wall, like ‘What time are we doing P.E. today?’ or ‘When are we doing Music again?’Image result for teacher crazy clipart

I’ve included a sample of my weekly timetable here, and also some links below so you can see how I structure my English, Irish and Maths lessons over the course of the week.

(COMING SOON – I’ll post these by the end of midterm!)

Hopefully you got some value from this and are thinking about applying it to your own planning. Give me a shout over at @irishguyteaching on Instagram if you found this helpful!

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