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For teachers- do your pupils learn something new every day?

(381 Posts)
jasper Fri 02-Jan-04 23:37:43

I am asking this due to the thread about taking kids out of school outwith holidays, where some of you explained it disrupted the teaching programme.

My question is do you really teach your pupils something different every day? This is a genuine question, not intended to provoke or criticise. I admire anyone who chooses teaching as a profession and the friends I have who teach are , to a woman, remarkable and inspiring individuals.
It's just that my memory of school (particularly primary school ) was of weeks and weeks of repetition of the same things.

That was my biggest compliant about school - it was boring and repetitive and I felt I hardly ever learned anything.

We were taken out of school for a week or two most years and there was never any notion of having to catch up or missing anything. Have things changed or am I suffering from false memory syndrome ? Might I have gone on to acheive greatness if it hadn't been for those fortnights in Harrogate?

So to repeat my question,which was not intended to rehash the holidays issue, do you teach a different thing every single day?

charliecat Fri 02-Jan-04 23:48:54

Im not a teacher, but i was ill for a week and i missed how to do long division. I did ask numerous times at school at primary and high school and i never did get it maybe because the teachers only had 10-15mins to explain it to me not a week or an hour, now 25, still havent got a clue. But can do adding subracting, algebra, fractions etc etc because i was at school for those. Just thought id put that here as it means when my own kids need help in doing that i wont be any use, all for 7 days off school!

JJ Sat 03-Jan-04 00:40:31

Quick, when was the war of 1812 fought? You don't have to be an American to answer that one, I guess.

But what's the difference between ethyl alcohol and ethanol? My answer is revision. You'd know it if you kept up with it. School should be repetitive. That's not how I learn things, that's how I remember them. The remembering is what's important.

(and I suppose now is a bad time to ask about over the counter teeth whitening things?)

hmb Sat 03-Jan-04 07:48:05

Yes. Full stop, almost end of story. For each Module of science that I teach at GCSE I have 14 lessons to do it in, that works out at 6 weeks. I need 12 weeks to cover all the work. That gives me 2 lessons to go over and review anything that the kids have found difficult. To do this I canvas opinion and will teach them what every parts of the topic they have found most difficult. So there is some repitition there.

Within each topic each new lesson builds on what was taught last. There is a regree of recapping in the first 5-10 minutes of the lesson. This is important because it helps the information to 'stick'. It also lets me see if there is anything that has been misunderstood so I can sort out problems.

At Ks3 we teach 5 lesson per topic. Each lesson has different information in it, but each lesson in the module builds on what was taught last, so I suppose that the kids might think that it is 5 lessons of 'the same stuff', but it isn't. At the end of 5 lessons (2 and a bit weeks) we go onto a different topic. So if a kids goes off school for 2 weeks it is possible that they will miss almost all of a topic. We cover 12 topics in a year. Topics are revisited each year, but year 8 builds on the work done in year 7 and year 9 on year 8s work.

While I agree that children learn in all different contexts (current educational theory stresses this), what you will be teaching them on holiday is unlikly to come up in GCSE science! Fine, it's your call, they are your children. But if a child misses two weeks of my lessons they will miss a hell of a lot of new work. I opsted details of what I'll be covereing with a year 10 class on the other thread if you are interested.

hmb Sat 03-Jan-04 07:49:15

Wish I had more time to go over things! The kids would do *so* much better if I did!

hmb Sat 03-Jan-04 08:02:17

Just out of interest, if you think that there is so much repeated in school, how would you feel if your child's teacher went off on holiday for two weeks in the middle of term! I can hear the yelps of horror already! After all, teachers aern't all that well paid, at least when they start working. If a teacher was the sole breadwinner for a family and lived in the expensive SE they would find it very difficult to pay for a holiday in holiday times. What about a special occasion, like a family wedding abroad? No? Ah, that must be because they don't have the spare time, and it would adversly affect the childrens' education

codswallop Sat 03-Jan-04 08:09:29

my witty reply to this as it was loading was.. well I taught them something new everyday, of course I did. whether thay learned it...
also they learned about routine, social skills, authority. cooperation, etc atc

we all learn something new everyday

hmb Sat 03-Jan-04 08:14:51

Rather like my mate who when asked ' Do you teach Fred Blogs', replied, 'Teach? No, but we have been in the same classroom twice a week'.

And before anyone jumps on this as proof of anything, it's a *joke*! He's a damn good teacher, especially with the more challenging kids.

codswallop Sat 03-Jan-04 08:26:55

hmmm Ialways had those kids too.

one enjoys a glittering career digging holes on the m6, look out for Paul Griffiths. He got ONe GCSE.. a C at history!

I always wonder what his employers think.. what a bizarrre academic record.

Hulababy Sat 03-Jan-04 09:48:00

Message withdrawn

fisil Sat 03-Jan-04 10:14:48

I've taught maths, history, geography, PSHE, politics and RE (even more bizarre academic record?). For every lesson in all of these subjects you set an aim and objective. For example, "by the end of this lesson all students will be able to work out the missing angle in a triangle."

Sometimes the objective will be revision based or recalling last year's work in order to build on it (especially in maths as it is a cumulaive subject)

Sometimes the objective will not be based on the subject matter but on a particular skill. So an extended writing objective in history might appear to repeat all the information about the war of 1812, but essay writing is a new thing.

We do now try very hard to communicate our aims and objectives to our students - it is school policy to write them on the board at the beginning of each lesson, to keep us and the children focussed on the fact that in the next hour we will learn something.

Of course, some lessons something quite different might get learnt. Other lessons you might go through a whole topic with the class actively involved in apparently really learning loads, only to have Nice Mark siddle up to you at the end of the lesson and say "everyone put their hands up loads and did the work really quickly and quietly today didn't they Miss? That's because we did a whole project on pi at primary school." So nothing was learnt as you'd presumed no prior knowledge!

jasper - thanks for asking the question. I agree it is an important one to ask, and I hope no teachers do take ofence at it, as it is a question that should be at the heart of our daily practice (and I believe it increasingly is)

jasper Sat 03-Jan-04 21:45:43

THanks for your response ladies; it has been of great interest to me.

It is shocking to think that I know so little about a system that I spent 12 years going through (and that my three children will be joining soon).
I wonder how many parents really understand what teachers DO? I know I don't. In a way I don't really want to , as I trust them as professionals to do the job they chose to do.

I loved the distinction some of you made about teaching and learning.

Are there any primary school teachers out there who could answer my original question?

V good point JJ about repetition being what makes you remember things.
Sorry I can't help with the over the counter tooth whitening question, as I have no experience or knowledge of them, other than to comment that they are unlikely to work well unless you have a close fitting tray made from an impression of your mouth with which to apply the stuff.

SueW Sat 03-Jan-04 21:50:52

fisil - wouldn't you be less likely to find yourself in the scenario you describe if you asked at the beginning of the class to establish the level of knowledge the pupils already had? Although I'm sure it gave the pupils a buzz to know all the answers

hmb Sat 03-Jan-04 22:02:47

Ah ha! Formative assessment! Supposed to be the start of every good lesson. Our new KS3 scheme of work even has a 4 question 'Quick quiz' to ask the kids at the start of each lesson to gague their level of understanding. Works for a bit, but then they get bored by it. And then if you do the quiz it takes 5-10 minutes, and then a 10 minute starter session and a 10-15 minute plenary session, and suddenly you only have 35 minutes to try to teach them something And most year 8s can take 15 minutes just getting out the equipment that they need! I do try to assess them at the start of each lesson, but sometimes it is hard.

nutcracker Sat 03-Jan-04 22:09:37

I have to say I think that the answer to this question depends on both the child and the teacher. My daughter learnt so much in reception because she absolutly adored her teacher and loved learning new things from her (and the also much adored classroom assitant). Her teacher was very friendly, confident and always willing to help with any problem you might have. Now dd1 is in yr1 and the situatuion is completely different, my dd1 no longer enjoys her school days, or learning, I am not entirly sure that she learns anything sometimes as the teacher is very 'arty' and seems to spend most of her time getting them to make things, which i know is important too but not (i think) as important as reading, writing and maths e.t.c. The teacher doesn't seem very confident in her teaching and not able to control a class of that age. On the occasions that i have needed to speak to her i have found her very uninterested in the problem and sometimes just plain dopey. One of the biggest differences is that in reception they had a full time classroom assistant and now they only have one occasionally which IMO isn't often enough.

steppemum Sun 04-Jan-04 07:32:23

Jasper, I have't taught in the UK for a few years, but I am a primary teacher. To answer your question, yes, they do learn something everyday, provided they are motivated (which is also in to a large extent down to the teacher) As others have said, often work builds on previous work, and includes lots of repetion and review, but the repitition and review are essential. To take a simple example, once a child can write their letters accurately, you don't then say "great they know that" They repeat it in everything they do every day, so that they learn to write fluently, confidently and accurately. The daily repetion is such an inportant part of school life, that kids who miss a significant part of it actually don't do as well as those who are there all year.

As well as skills like writing, we teach things like history, science, maths in subject units, and you can miss a whole unit by being away for 2 weeks. There is some repetition of units from term to term and year to year, reviewing the work done before, and building on it. As a teacher, I hated it when someone had been away for 2 weeks, if it was due to illness, I did everything I could to help the child catch up, but I must confess I really resented it when it was due to holidays. The teachers time in the class is so precious, you are always juggling different groups and different children's needs. For each curriculum area missed, that is 10-15 minutes of catch-up I have to do for that child. That 10-15 might have been the time I had planned to sit down with this group and give them a little extra imput, but now I can't, or it might have been the time I would hear a couple of children read. It would mean that I now have to do something in break time to catch up (eg ask kids who don't mind if they would like to stay in and read to me) Now I don't mind putting myself out when necessary, but I do need to go to the loo, and grab a quick cuppa (to lubricate that throat that has been talking all morning) so it is frustrating to have to try and catch up kids who've been away.

I sometimes think, that if you have chosen to take your child out during term time, then you should be prepared to come in to the classroom and help out in the following week to compensate the teacher for their time.

I do understand the problem of holiday costs, but to be honest, most of the kids in my class had a fornights holiday in a caravan in Clapton. (during the school holidays) The ones who missed school were usually off to disney land or somewhere exotic. Nice if you can afford it.

robinw Sun 04-Jan-04 09:37:18

message withdrawn

fisil Sun 04-Jan-04 10:19:13

SueW - actually that example was taken from a training session I once attended which then went on to make exactly the point that you made! Are you a teacher ... do you want to be?

I was trained to teach history but now teach maths. One of the big differences I have observed is that in history beginning topic by finding out what the students already know is a basic. As head of maths I observe a lot of lessons, and it doesn't seem to be all that common. I often comment after an observation that a lot of good teaching went on, but I was unable to measure what learning went on.

Mmm, interesting. I'm enjoying this discussion about whether children learn something every day

kmg1 Sun 04-Jan-04 10:31:12

My boys learn something new every day - in all sorts of different areas, they are 4 and 6, and are bright and highly motivated, with experienced, enthusiastic, and highly motivated teachers, in an excellent (state) school. Every day they come out bubbling about something, wanting to tell me about - a fantastic assembly about The Great Fire of London, or a library book they read at school, or a new song they learned, or, or, or ...

Jimjams Sun 04-Jan-04 10:31:52

I do think hmb makes a good point. Most parents would be horrified if the teacher swanned off on a 2 week holiday to the sun in term time as they couldn't afford to pay double in August.

Most of the people I knew at school who took term time holidays could easily have afforded to go during the holidays.

Whilst I'm not really really anti taking term time hoidays- especially at primary school. I think if you do it you should recognise that it will cause the teacher some inconveineince and maybe apologise for that. Give and take and all that.

I think it would be hard for us to take a term time holiday with ds1 as he has so many people who come to see and assess him during term times he would probably end up missing an appointment, or would make it hard for appointments to be made. I could hardly complain that he hadn't been seen enough by SALT, if I'd taken him out of the classroom for 2 weeks.

Evansmum Sun 04-Jan-04 10:44:59

Joining this late, and picking up a side issue, I doubt over the counter whitening stuff works. I commissioned some research on whitening toothpaste. While some makes remove stains, they won't make your teeth any whiter. The dental researchers I used were confident that the only whitening treatments with active ingredients that work are those available from your dentist. I don't think they were just being protective of their profession, they had good arguments to back this up.

popsycal Sun 04-Jan-04 16:12:23

I am not even going to get into this one!

hmb Sun 04-Jan-04 16:15:09

Why, don't you like white teeth???

SueW Sun 04-Jan-04 16:58:07

fisil I am training to be an antenatal teacher and one of the important points we learn is acknowledging prior learning in the adults who attend sessions/classes.

I have heard of a senior school teacher who attended classes and went back and changed the way they taught science because of their experience of NCT classes. The comment was something like 'if labour can be taught like that and made interesting, anything can'!

Oakmaiden Sun 04-Jan-04 21:43:46

If it is such a big deal for a child (particularly primary school) to be away for a week on holiday, what happens if they are ill? It must often happen - that a child misses several days due to a virus or something. Will being ill irrevocably damage their education?

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