Being a 21st Century Teacher…

… what exactly does this mean?


Well for me collaboration must be right up at the top of the list of things that make a 21st century teacher.

I can honestly say that since I found Twitter and started blogging with my class I have become much more adventurous with how I go about teaching as well as having a renewed enthusiasm for my role. It has been amazing to link up with so many other like-minded educators who are willing to share new ideas and experiences that enhance the lives of their learners. I have connected with people who have introduced me to Quadblogging, Solo Taxonomy, Dough Gym, iPads across the curriculum, blogging for the class and for me, UKedchat (and many other Twitter chats!), Skype (mystery skype), 100 word challenge, guided reading methods and becoming a CAS master teacher. All of these discoveries, and I’m sure some I have missed, have started in my class and in many cases been shared across the school.

Only last weekend, thanks to one tweet:



…I have now linked up with 3 classes who are all enthusiastic to collaborate together. We have set up a Google doc to share dates and information, added links to our blog as well as embedded a map so that the children can see where their buddies are! Strangely, following on from this, a parent of a child in my class asked me how I had chosen the classes we are linked up with as it turns out one of them is her home-town in Australia. This has given an added excitement to the class as they have someone in the class linked! As well as this, some Australian headteachers were walking around school on Friday and so I shared with them how I had linked up with some Australian schools and they too had heard of the schools I am linked with! They were excited to hear about the connections being made – I only wish I could head over there sometime to see some of the great things going on in their education system! Another of the schools I have made links with is in Ireland who we will be focussing on next week sent this tweet:  


I am excited to join with this project next week as we focus on their class! It will be interesting to see what the children spot!

It is amazing how one small tweet has allowed to me to share and collaborate with so many people!

For me, successful CPD is where teachers can collaborate to find out about things that interest them and then stay in touch to discuss successes or failures.

Recently starting the CAS Master Teacher course has given me an enthusiasm for the new computing curriculum (I discovered this course on twitter too!). After going on the course, I came away enthused to find out more about Raspberry Pi due to collaboration with another educator who has already undertaken the Raspberry Pi academy! That is why I have written this post. I started off thinking I would write a post about all the different qualities of a 21st Century Teacher but once I started I realised that it is collaborating that has made me a 21st Century Teacher – it leads to all other kinds of things but ultimately it has changed my teaching!

I have my fingers crossed now that I will be accepted for the next Raspberry Pi academy in October!


T4W unit journal – Invention

The children worked so hard on their Beowolf legends during this unit. It was great to see the language being applied in their independent 100 word challenge writing each week. As well as that they completed an independent warm write creating their own legend. Before they could complete their warm write, they used the original text to support with their planning. For some children, this worked really well and they used the ideas they had learnt. For others, their better writing came from the freedom of a prompt and then just going for it.
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By the end of the unit, the children were confident to use the available tool kits, examples etc around the classroom to support with their writing!
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For the next unit, I want the children to have more time on their independent inventions as I always feel this gets either rushed or not given enough time. Each unit brings a new change :)

Brain Boogie Books

I was in a school that does a lot of work with growth mindset the other day. There were so many things I saw that I hope to start implementing eventually in my own class but the one thing I decided to get going immediately was a kind of challenge book. The school I was in use brainology and the year 1 class I observed called these books – brainology books.

I watched them using them for their early morning task. The class teacher had chosen 3 key spellings for each child that they needed to work on (these were taken from their literacy work). The 3 focus spellings were being practised by the children all over a page of their brainology book in different colour pencils, in lists, making patterns/ pictures. The children explained that their brainology book was to improve their learning (I was really impressed by the ability of the year 1s to verbalise this to me so clearly). They also told me that they could choose other words from the lists on the wall that they needed to get better at and practise them too. On the walls of the class were the tricky words from each phase of letters and sounds. I loved the focus I saw from the children to get on and practise. I decided this was something I must get started!

Growth mindset is developing in my school but we don’t use the brainology programme so I wondered what to call the book. Somehow (as certain children in my class are obsessed with alliteration) the idea of a ‘Brain Boogie Book’ popped up! I thought the activities the children would do in the book would make their brain wake up and move! Currently I am going to get them to use it for their register time: AM and PM. In the morning, they will add their number bond practise work to it which is something they do daily but it will help me to keep their work all together! In the afternoon, they will practise their 3 key words and any other words (topic, HFW or based from their current phoneme/spelling focus) they feel need work.

As they get used to the idea of working on things independently, I will encourage them to use the book to practise any maths concepts they find tricky, any sentence types we are learning, record strategies that help their learning etc… or to record things they have found tricky. They will have the book in their tray and can access it during times when they may have completed other work and can independently practise what they feel needs work.

I don’t know if this will work but it was such a simple idea that I thought I would give it a go!




T4W unit journal – Innovation

After spending a good amount of time learning and playing with our legend, we were ready to move onto innovating! Before starting to write anything, I wanted the children to be clear on their setting and main villianous character! Therefore, we set to drawing them! I began by modelling what the setting could be – I explained that we were going to keep it set in Viking times but consider other places instead of a swamp and other buildings instead of a great banqueting hall. The children generated some great ideas!

 I then set about drawing a possible new setting for our class innovated legend (please excuse my drawing!)

P1130086The children were very keen to get on with their own and could explain their settings brilliantly!

I wish I had asked them to take photos of their work in Explain Everything and then verbally describe their setting, as I feel I would have got more out of them (a note for next time!)

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 After looking at the setting, I asked the children to consider a monster to replace the original Grendal. With their help and ideas, I modelled a possible monster and discussed we discussed where he lived in could live in our class setting. After a short discussion, we decided that he lived in the lava at the top of the mountain and so he was going to be a fire beast! 


After looking at our characters and settings, we used a copy of the original map and began innovating. We innovated on a class version and then the children innovated their own version to varying degrees.

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 They practised retelling our version and retelling their own version. After they practised and became confident with their stories, we started to write them up.

As usually happens, some children sprint ahead and some need more time. Because of this, I have adapted the way I undertake shared writing. We aim to work on a quality paragraph (sometimes two) a day with a focus like spelling key words, punctuation, sentence starts, using description etc…. I usually start with all the class together on the first sentence or two and model how to alter the map into text using their ideas; they take notes in their writing journals to support themselves once they get going at the tables. I then ask the children to go and complete their first sentence or two. After a short while, we share our writing so far. Usually by now, some children are keen to just get on and others are still needing some extra support and time. The children who are getting on confidently, I ask to carry on but give them extra challenges to complete as they aim to beat the teacher’s paragraph! The children who need a little more time work with an adult who guides them as necessary at their own pace. For the other children, I  continue with my innovation and they follow along with their own. We usually discuss the sentences we are writing and they develop their own. For this unit, this approach has worked successfully so far!

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It feels like this post is a little short but actually we have spent a substantial amount of time learning, writing and editing work in this phase. 


T4W unit journal – Imitation

As part of the continuing development of Talk for Writing in our school, we discussed the next steps in our start of term INSET day. We have developed the approach so that everyone is using it as their main teaching method in Literacy. I have led training in poetry, narrative, non-narrative and how to teach grammar through the approach. It was felt that at this point further training wasn’t necessary, instead we would reflect on how things were going. So, what came about from the discussion was that we would ask all teachers to keep a T4W learning journal. 

This would be something like what our reception class has for each child in which they record what the children get up to through photos, post it note comments, copies of the children’s work etc… Choosing our current T4W unit, we would record each step of the way through the unit. This could be done through photos, video, children’s work, classroom boards, a scrap book as long as all the ideas for the unit were gathered together and could be shared and discussed later in the term.

The reason for doing this was mainly so that we could share how a unit works in each class, discussing successes and failures and considering ways to move forward or support each other. We realised it would also help for anyone new coming in to teach in the school who may not have experienced Talk for Writing, parents who wonder what it is all about or any other visitors.

Thinking about how I would go about this, I realised that really the answer was obvious – I would record it through my blog and then share it once the unit was complete. It would be an easy way for me to keep track of a unit and not risk losing it like I would on lots of paper or in a book (I know what I am like and it may well get thrown away!)

So here goes…

My current T4W unit is Legends and, as our topic is Vikings, I have adapted the Legend of Beowolf for my year 2/3 class.


After writing the text, with a bit of help from my husband (who made me add this bit), I began learning it and the best way for me to do that was to draw it into a story map (please don’t laugh at my drawings!)

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Recently, I have begun putting a box around each sentence, including the punctuation and putting each paragraph onto separate sheets. This is because I feel my class need to see clearly what a sentence is and think about how they join to make a paragraph.

I hung a copy of this first story map on the class washing line before telling the children what kind of text we were learning. They started to look at it and ask questions, which I love, before I shared the story. It is quite a long story and I have altered it a lot since I first taught it and hope this version will work with my class.

I decided to make a heading to go in their books at the start of the unit to keep the section clear should they (or anyone else) need to refer back.


For assessment purposes, I have started to begin a unit with a cold write (this is completed by the children on blue paper). I give them a prompt to pull out the style of writing that we are about to work on. In the case of this unit, I used a film from The Literacy Shed called The Tiny Crusader. I discussed what a legend was before watching the clip. After the clip, we discussed what the old blacksmith might do with the little knight. What kind of adventure might they have? Who might they meet? Where might they go? Then, they got on with their cold write. I marked this, taking on board any areas of weakness to focus on over the unit. Developing characters was my main focus but, alongside that, the usual suspects of capital letters, full stops, speech marks and developing a variety of sentence openers would also be looked at.

Cold write

When I introduced the story to the class, I had managed to learn it and could just use the story map to guide me through. Of course, I forgot some of the words and altered bits but that is what we want the children to do too so I tend to worry less about knowing it word for word than I used to!

Now that we have started learning it, the children are beginning to think of actions for parts other than the key connectives and punctuation which are consistent across the school. They are pretty good at the actions too!

For this particular unit, I decided to do some work focusing in further on sentences as I have children who really need to think about what a sentence is and some who need to use more variety in their writing. I pulled out three sentence types that I wanted to teach as short mini lessons at the start of main lessons. Once they are confident with the style, I will give them as a 5 minute starter activity. The styles are a 2A sentence (includes two adjectives before a noun), the power of three for description and an emotion ‘ed’ starter sentence (focusing on specific sentences came after reading Alan Peat’s ‘Writing Exciting Sentences‘). I will, of course, use other styles of sentences during shared writing and no doubt some of the children will use these but decided that I really needed to focus in for the children who find it tricky.

For our first Steal my Style (SMS) session, we started by looking at pictures of Beowolf and Grendal. I gave the children 60 seconds to come up with as many words as they could in their writing journal (and I joined in on my flip chart too!). Using lolly lotto, the children shared some other words which I added to the class list. After that, I showed the children examples of 2A sentences on the board at three challenge levels. They choose the challenge they thought they could do (some have since altered this after having a go but that’s all part of growth mindset development and knowing what they need to do.)

After this, I modelled a 2A sentence for Beowolf and for Grendal (using different colours to highlight the parts for each challenge). The children helped give ideas for the adjectives and I said them aloud asking which way round sounded best (they have started to do this in their own writing now as I hear them when I walk around the class!! Yippee!!) They finally had a go in their books. As this was an initial introduction, it took longer than I would like but they will only get faster (I hope!)

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The children practised 2A sentences in their writing journals using nouns linked to our Beowolf story like sword, hall and swamp. We magpied some of the sentences and added them to our working wall for support when we started writing. I knew that adding description was something the children needed to work on from their cold write.


I decided to develop a Steal my Style (SMS) board linked to our new sentence focus in this unit. As well as supporting this, the board seems a great way to get the children thinking regularly about key grammar terminology (we will see how this goes!)


 The children have really taken to this board which ended up looking like this after a week…

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This first week we focused on retelling the text and completing our story map. I drew another map in front of the class to support their mapping. I really focused on using kung fu punctuation and key connective actions as we retold it and drew our maps. I made a big emphasis on boxing up each sentence. By the end of the week, we had completed a new class text map which hung from our washing line.

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The children all completed their own maps (with varying levels of support) and practised using it to retell the text to each other.

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The children used Book Creator on the iPad to retell Beowolf. As I walked around the class, I could see how motivated they were to share the story. Some chose to act and film each part, some photographed their text map and verbally retold and some decided to type it up. Take a look below to see a little more…


The children worked so hard on learning the original Beowolf, retelling it daily, acting it out and sharing it with each other. As a final part of the imitation phase, I decided to ask them to write the legend of Beowolf. I haven’t included this step for a while but wanted to do it this time to see if the children could be careful with their structure if they didn’t have to worry about the content. I wanted to have chance to walk around and encourage them about correct punctuation. I have to say, it worked! Across the class I saw more capital letters and full stops as the children got immediate feedback as they were writing (I circled or ticked as the lesson progressed). I also saw children becoming more confident to use commas and speech marks. They were able to peer assess each other’s work and talk about the punctuation and if sentences made sense. This felt like a good step as they have now written a substantial amount before their innovated version and sentences styles are beginning to become natural (I have spotted some appearing in their 100 word challenges!)


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Before finishing this section of our Beowolf legend, I challenged the children to do their best retelling to share with our blog visitors. If you have time, take a look here!

Getting started – nurture 13/14

Nurture 13/14

Throughout the past year I have had the pleasure of reading blogs from some wonderful educational tweeps. Each time I read one I think about what a great way it is to reflect as well as share ideas. It has been one of the best forms of CPD and given me so many things to try with my class and across the school. A few of my favourites include starting the 100 Word Challenge with my class and across KS2 and the 5 Sentence Challenge which is being developed in KS1 – thank you to @TheHeadsOffice, developing blogging across the school and quadblogging in my own class (and hopefully across the school over the next year!) – thank you to @DeputyMitchell, thank you to @SwayGrantham who has shared some wonderful ideas on her blog and to @RachelOrr whose blog has really helped with an understanding of how to spread the Pie Corbett approach across the school.

Thanks to these people and many more, I am determined to start my own blog alongside my class blog. I don’t know how much I will be able to post and definitely can’t commit to doing so daily but will aim for at least once a half term and see how it goes from there… I may even try and add my challenge #52 photos on too! Take a look here if you are interested in trying the challenge –

I have certainly learned a lot in 2013 but there is still more I hope for this year so here goes for my thirteen positives from 2013.


Thirteen positives from 2013


  1. Completing the Photo challenge 365 – at the start of the year I didn’t think I would manage it but with some great encouragement from some wonderful ladies – I have made it! Thank you @TheHeadsOffice @Janeh271 @renoonog37
  2. Guitar – I have been moaning on about starting to learn and finally  decided it was about time I did it. So for this year’s birthday a guitar is what I got along with a book of Coldplay songs. I may be a way off that book at the moment (I can just about manage Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) but perhaps by this time next year…
  3. Running – I love running and despite missing the Silverstone Half Marathon (due to OFSTED and HMI stress), I have managed to keep going at shorter distances and take part in some shorter races. My times have been picking up too!
  4. Towards the end of 2013, I have begun to see friends and family more by trying to develop the work/life balance. I have a way to go but I have definitely improved!
  5. Barcelona – a place that  and I have wanted to visit for a while and finally managed it there as a special birthday present for Mr D. It was great and I have some fabulous memories and photos!
  6. Relaxing Summer holiday to Fuerteventura – I didn’t think this was going to happen as it was so last minute when booked as work had taken up so much time. I am so glad we did and it was the perfect escape after a very hectic year at school.
  7. Painting over the summer –  and I had been discussing painting our downstairs toilet pretty much since moving into our house 5 years ago and finally, this summer, we got around to doing it! As can be expected with Darling DIY  (more coats than first imagined, a broken toilet seat and dodgy electrics were just a few issues!), it didn’t all go exactly to plan but we persevered and eventually ended up with a room we are happy with!
  8. Moving house – something we had considered over the past year but after discussing with a neighbour we have ended up deciding to extend our current house. Planning permission came through in November so exciting developments are afoot!
  9. Twitter – over the past year I have become addicted and learnt so much from some fantastic people! I only hope I can share as much this year.
  10. Blogging – I have continued to develop this with my class and I’m loving watching it spread across the school and the children becoming more confident online.
  11. Ipads – another development in my own teaching and across the school. It is such a motivational resource when used in the correct way. I have been inspired by so many but have found @ICT_MrP and his blog a brilliant inspiration.
  12. Taking on the role of Literacy leader – this is something I haven wanted to do for a while and was so happy when the opportunity came up and I could start this year! I have loved developing the Pie Corbett approach across the school, working on Guided Reading and Phonics as well as thinking about how to develop grammar with Pie. So much to do still but loving the challenge.
  13. Leading staff meetings – before this year, I hadn’t really had much chance to do this. It has been great to share ideas with others and hear what kind of things they would like more of.


Fourteen wishes for 2014


  1. Most important to me is Work/Life balance – I am terrible at this and must work out ways to spend more time with family and friends!
  2. Guitar – I must aim to spend some time each day (or at least every other day) practising especially if I want to play any Coldplay songs by this time next year.
  3. Running – I will continue to run as it is great to relieve stress. I am signed up for this year’s Silverstone Half and aim to match (or possibly beat) my previous time.
  4. Photo Challenge 52 – after completing the 365 challenge this should be more than possible although I would like to improve the quality of my photos.
  5. Read – I love reading and sometimes read too many educational books (which I do enjoy) but should spend more time on books for pleasure.
  6. Get to goal – I have been so close to my WW goal for a while but this year I must meet it!
  7. Write more – the reason for developing this blog so that I can reflect more and share ideas.
  8. Switch off treats – I started making sure I had some me time more often towards the end of 2013 and this is definitely something to keep up into 2014. I need to ensure time away from work!
  9. Extension – spend time with Mr Darling thinking about what we want for our new housing development.
  10. Twitter – continue to keep up to date with educational developments and ideas as well as sharing experiences from my own class.
  11. Ipads – work on developing them more in class in order to develop deeper learning and enthuse the children. Share this experience in school, twitter and on my blog.
  12. Develop my role as Literacy leader – I hope to continue to use this role to support my colleagues and help the school move forward. There is so much to do!
  13. Enjoy my class – they will only be that age once and I want it to be memorable for them.
  14. Enjoy the year and take as many opportunities as I can!

Well, a slightly longer post than I thought I would do for my first one but great to get it all down!

I hope that everyone can achieve their goals for this year!

It seems like a lot but I think it is possible!