Another fabulous week of fun and learning in Beech Class has come to an end. The phonics groups are flying pupils are making great progress. The work on addition and subtraction has continued and it's easy to see that confidence is increasing. INscience the children have been looking for different materials all around the school - what materials are things made from in your houses? One real highlight of the week was the children's hot seating of our Teaching Assistant Mrs Hazeldine who worked a good few years ago as a teaching assistant in the old school building. She told the children all about how the school used to be and they were able to think about the changes that had taken place and use historical language to talk about 'then' and now'. We were surprised how many of the children had memories of the old building and of the opening of this one - a really interesting way to focus on our theme of 'Changes in Living Memory'. I believe that the class will be getting to interview more people with memories of Chagford in the past - real living history!
I took great pleasure in sharing the artefacts that children had brought in from home to help them think about their own family in the past. Lotte brought in a treasure trove of old photographs and a beautifully engraved silver hop flask which attested to her great grandfather's interest in hunting and her family's long link to this corner of Dartmoor. Leo brought in an old iron axe head found on the farm - his dad said he thought the axe had belonged to his own grandfather. One wonders if the axe is still with us after several new heads and several new handles...
Children have started to bring in their concertina books reflecting on themselves as babies, toddlers, preschoolers and great big Key Stage One children - lots of progress in just a few years. A blink of an eye for us is a lifetime for them and it's wonderful to see them reflecting on their own life stories.
Thank you so much to Mrs Fitzgerald who is working hard to ensure every day is packed with interest and fun.
What a pleasure to see and hear the happy buzz of learning from Beech Class this week. Mrs Fitzgerald has been in her element making the magic of learning happen and the children have been having a ball too.
The children have been thinking about changes in the world during living memory, they have been cracking on with addition and subtraction in maths, they have been excelling in phonics, in RE they thought about special places and special people that make them feel calm and safe, in art they have been continuing with their work inspired by Bridget Riley - the list goes on and on. I loved seeing some children who used to be reluctant learners really coming out of their shells and showing real spark and curiosity.
IN maths children have been thinking about 'part and whole'. I loved the various representations the children considered to make sense of this concept. A really useful game to play with children is to think about 'fact families' - how one true number statement automatically gives you three others 4+2=6, 2+4=6, 6-4=2, 6-2=4. I have seen children get addicted to this and fill page after page with families of facts. As a car game it's fun to call out addition statements and for the child to call them back as subtraction statements.
Next week Mrs Fitzgerlad is hoping to set the class a special homework project thinking about families and the past. She will explain everything then but if you are at a loose end why not get out the photo albums or memory boxes and have a talk about the child's past and, maybe, the family's past. How many years back was the child born? How many years back was mummy born? How many years back was grandpa born?
Have a wonderful weekend everyone - we'll see you all on Monday.
It has been a busy and positive week in Beech Class. We have seen lots of smiles and lots of good learning and the atmosphere in the room has been happy and purposeful. Mr Finch has been popping in each time he passes to check on what has been going on.
Maths has been strong this week as children have been using manipulatives and representations to cement their understanding of part and whole. By this we mean the way that six and four make ten or, to take it quite a step further, six and five make eleven. Most of us don't remember when this sort of understanding clicked into place for us - once it's secure the episodic memory or learning how numbers seem to 'fit together' becomes the semantic memory or understanding of this that, once gained, feels innate. It's quite a privilege to be in the class at that moment when a child puts three and seven together and finds it makes ten - then put seven and three together and finds that makes ten as well.
It has been a great pleasure to look around the school and see art in the various classes - upstairs in Oak Class the children were busily working on spiders inspired by Mr Finch's all time favourite artist, Louise Bourgoise while back in wonderful Beech Class it's the wonderful world of monochrome as the pupils try and get into the visual world of the queen of op-art, Bridget Riley. Oddly some of the works ended up reminding me more of Rothko than Riley. Well done children and thank you Mr Dray for your inspiring teaching.
It was remembrance day on Thursday. This isn't an easy topic to talk about with the very young but it's important we try so that they can make sense, in their own way, of the poppies and the stories on the television and the memories of relatives who, perhaps, know a little more than they would like to of the tragedy of war. We like to spend time with the children to listen and discuss. Sometimes we hear profound truths from our youngest pupils.
In history the children have been thinking about changes in our way of life in the lifetimes of themselves, their parents and grandparents. Mrs Fitzgerald brought in some things that have been in her family for a while - a tin that used to have OXO cubes, a toy train that belonged to her father, a toy she had when she was little. It's funny to think about our parents and grandparents being as young as we were once and to wonder if they liked their toys in the same way that we like ours - especially as their toys seem so strange and old fashioned. Rosa led some great thinking about how different it must have been to use a telephone that was fixed to the wall and couldn't do anything except make calls. Thinking about this makes Mr Finch feel terribly, terribly old. Mrs Fitzgerald has asked the children if they can bring a picture of something that belongs or belonged to a parent/carer or grandparent. If things aren't terribly valuable they could be brought in for a show and tell but a picture is probably fine!
It has been good to have more consistency in the classroom this week. Mrs Fitzgerald taught the class on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and will do the same again next week and for as long as is needed until Miss Coleman is properly recovered and well enough to return to the class. We are lucky to have her. Let's hope that next week sees another brilliant round of learning!
Many thanks to all the parents and carers of children in Beech Class for their kindness and patience over what has been a challenging week.
I know that everyone will be joining me in sending the very warmest of best wishes to the class teacher Emily Coleman who is currently recuperating at home after a serious medical situation over the half term break. Emily, we miss you and we are looking forward to welcoming you back when you are well enough to return.
I know that many parents and carers have concerns about the running of the class in Miss Coleman's absence. In normal times it would be reasonably simple to find a supply teacher to cover a class for a period when necessary but things have not been normal for quite a while and good supply teachers are now very hard to get hold of indeed. At one point in the week we had secured an excellent teacher for the period of Miss Coleman's absence until that teacher tested positive for covid. This has been very challenging indeed.
I am very glad to say that Audra Fitzgerald who knows the children very well indeed having covered the class for an extended period last year is with us on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. She has a prior booking for Thursday but the excellent teacher who taught the class on Thursday and Friday of this week has agreed to return to fill that day. Of course none of this is ideal - we would so much rather have Miss Coleman back in the class but we know that we have secured really good people to help us in the meantime.
I have been hugely impressed with the children in the class this week. Despite coming back to school after half term to the 'wrong' teacher, they have been incredibly resilient and their learning behaviour has not faltered. As I mentioned in an email to parents earlier in the week - one of the absolute highpoints of my week was watching the children's lesson with Miss Fitzgerald where they had the opportunity to explore the exciting apparatus in our hall. This was the first time that the apparatus had been used since before the pandemic and it made my heart sing to see it being used. I have been delighted with the progress in writing the children are showing me - especially Bodhi who has been making me proud every single day. In math I've loved seeing the different models and representations that the children have been using and making to represent part and whole. I have seen bead strings and unifix and Numicon being used and real thought and investigation going into exploration of number. Good good work. Outside in the playground I love to see how the children interact between classes and years - I'm very pleased indeed when I see our younger children confidently interacting with the older ones - especially taking advantage of the new play leaders to make sure they are having a positive and active playtime.
Our main Humanities topic this term is a History unit on 'Changes Within Living memory'. To explore this children might like to talk to relatives about how things have changed during their own lifetimes. It can be mind-blowing to children to think that mummy and daddy were children once, and that granny was a little girl once upon a time. Talking to children about this is very valuable and very entertaining too. It would be wonderful if children could look at photos of people and places familiar to them in past times. I'm not talking about the distant past here - looking at a photograph of the garden and seeing that the tree which is so big now was only little when they were born is a really powerful learning moment. If possible we would love for children to bring in copies of any photographs that they find interesting - don't bring in originals as they can get lost or damaged in a busy key stage one classroom.
Our maths for the next week focusses on addition and subtraction - for the majority of the Year Ones this is within ten and for the majority of Year Twos it is within twenty. A very powerful bit of learning that you can help them with at home is securing their instant recall of number bonds to ten (Year One) and twenty (Year Two). Number bonds is the term we teachers use for numbers that go together to make a certain sum. So the year ones would be practicing 'one and nine makes ten', 'four and six makes ten', 'five and five makes ten' and so on. There's any number of ways to make this fun: I hold up some of my fingers and you see how quickly you can hold up the right number of fingers on your side to make ten. I count out ten lego bricks then hide some and you have to see how many there are and tell me how many I must have hidden. You will think of more - I used to play number bond tennis in the car with my son when we were out driving.
We changed all the books in the children's book bags this week - or at least as many as we could find - if you have any of the schools books at home do send them in for a change. This week we will be making the system more rigorously matched to the children's learning in phonics to make sure that in their phonically decodable books they are reading material that is in exactly the right place to build confidence. Of course in their own choice of reading for pleasure, by themselves or with an adult, we hope they are choosing a wide, wide range of fun and engaging sources of reading whether that's The Beano, a book about Dinosaurs, a funny story, the Argos catalogue, grandad's fishing magazine whatever it is that grabs them. We aren't fussy - reading is reading.
In science we will be thinking about building things. About the materials we use to build and how we make structures. In a sense this as much an engineering unit as a science one. It should be the most immense fun. I wish I could be teaching it myself if I'm honest. If any mums or dads work in the construction industry and would be happy to come in to school to be quizzed on their jobs we would love to hear from them - they will get a swift invitation.
I'm looking forward to a slightly more settled week next week. Thanks again to all the parents and carers for their kindness and understanding this week and, once again, a huge well done to the children for rolling with the challenges they have faced.
Sincerely, Ed Finch
Welcome to the blog page for Year 1/2 - Beech Class at Chagford Primary School