A very warm welcome to 2019/2020 Class 3. We are again, a very large class and there are a number of parents that are new to the class. So I will run through as concisely as possible, but with enough detail, all the routines and expectations of the class.
I will start with the changes and new initiatives so that returning parents get to know about these before they switch off concentration!
Class 3 is now me, Mrs Lupton and half of Mrs Blackley. After 6 years with me, Miss Pennington has managed to escape to the relative peace and serenity of Class 2. Mrs Blackley will be with Class 3 every morning. Mrs Lupton is in Class 3 full time. On Monday afternoons, Mrs Sweetman teaches the children French and Rowan teaches football and multiskills on Thursday. This year, I will be having PPA every other Thursday so this will be the only time I am not available for you to drop in. On those days Mrs Lupton will be officially in charge.
As last week’s letter stated, we are trialling a new ‘buddy system’ and I am extremely pleased with the way it is going. The buddies seemed to have risen to the responsibility and the new children seem to be happy. This has impacted the way we have started the term too. We have decided to take a more child centred approach and begin gently. We had a lovely few days in the first week doing thinking activities about the year to come and getting used to the new class. Last week, we had a gentle start to proper lessons with the older buddies being my helpers in the classroom to make sure the new ones don’t feel lost or left behind. So in that same vein, homework didn’t start until this week. Over the next week or two, once routines are established and everyone is comfy, the pace will accelerate up to normal Class 3 top speed.
The biggest change or new idea, and the one that got the children most animated, is the reward scheme. Pink Tickets have been replaced by ‘Smiley Stamps’. It is exactly the same principle, but they are not able to be lost! The children will get a chocolate bar for 10 Smiley Stamps and then a £10 voucher for filling the chart. To earn a Smiley Stamp the children need to do something above and beyond the everyday expectation. This could be an excellent piece of work; putting in extra effort with something they’ve been asked to do; volunteering for a job no one else wanted; voluntarily doing something without being asked; being extra helpful; an act of kindness to others and so on. Additionally, the children can earn a guaranteed one per week by doing their home reading. I am also endeavouring to give out more stickers this year because I keep getting told that ‘everyone loves a sticker!’
The basics of the class are: The door opens at 8.40am and closes promptly at 8.55am (that is the 8.55am that is on the computer screen in my room that is set to the exact time, not the one on your car clock, wristwatch or any other timepiece you may happen to have about your person). The children are welcome to arrive at any time between these two times but they prefer being closer to 8.40am to give them longer to settle in. The first 15 minutes is free time for the children to chat and catch-up and tell me about what embarrassing things mum, dad or sibling has been up to the previous evening! It is also a perfect time if any of you want to pop in for a quick chat, I always make myself available at this time, so no appointment is necessary. From 8.55am, we do the register and have 15 minutes of quiet reading time before doing spellings. Maths and English follows and takes us to lunch time. In the afternoons we do all the other subjects in the curriculum.
Homework - The children will get a piece of maths and English homework on a Monday that needs handing in on Thursday morning. Neither piece should take any longer than 30 minutes, so it shouldn’t take them any more than an hour per week. Most children will need some adult support with their homework, this might be as simple as making sure they sit down to it, in a distraction free environment or sometimes they may require actual help and guidance to complete it. If they do not understand a piece of homework and you feel unable to help then I am more than happy to provide any amount of help. They must come and see me on a Tuesday or Wednesday for help because Thursday morning when it is due in is too late. Do not be afraid to show them the way you remember for fear that it is not the way we do it. If you have a method that they can understand and remember then it adds to their armoury. When you help them, please initial it so we can see it was supported when we mark it.
Additionally, as part of the children’s homework is the expectation that they read for a short time every night. I will expand on this further on in the letter. They also need to write out their spellings once or twice and practice their times tables. It should only take a matter of minutes to write 10 words out, although it is worth checking that they are copying them correctly. To learn their tables, there are numerous apps or the good old-fashioned method of wrote learning. This year the Year 4s will sit a government times table test where they will have to answer random times table questions at a rate of one every 6 seconds.
On a similar theme, I would like to make note of the spelling requirement in Class 3. The children will get their spelling words on a Monday morning. Please help them to learn them as it is a requirement of the National Curriculum. We have a challenge board in the classroom that tracks their progress and if they get full marks for 6 weeks in a row then they win a bar of chocolate. The children find it hardest to learn the definitions for these words and how to use them in sentences, but this is by far the most important part of the process. What is the point of them being able to spell floccinaucinihilipilification1 if they can’t use it in their writing??! When helping them to learn the words, please talk to them about the words: how to use them and what they mean.
This leads me on to reading… reading is a skill and it needs to be practiced. I ask the children, was Messi the player he is today from the moment he first kicked a ball? Of course the answer is no, he practiced an enormous amount and still does. There is a misconception that the older a child gets the less a parent has to read with them or the less they have to read. This couldn’t be further from the truth and all secondary schools would back me up. All the children in the class can ‘read’. However, can they all understand the complexities of a text and the hidden meaning within? Can they all read at a pace that allows them to get immersed in a text and really enjoy it? Can they read with enough confidence to tackle a really good 200+ page book like War Horse, or taken away to a fantastical land like Narnia? The answer to all that is probably, no. Our job is now to encourage them to read independently and to you. Ask them about what they are reading and go beyond saying the words correctly to understanding the storyline. They don’t always have to be reading a book, it could be the newspaper or a comic or an information book. It might be that they like to check BBC Newsround on the internet and read the stories there. All reading is valuable. I am also more than happy for the children to have a home reader as well as their school book, they are allowed to bring this into school too, if they like. I will allow and encourage anything that gets children to enjoy reading and want to do it.
For the children to earn a ‘Smiley Stamp’ I would like you to comment on what you have discussed rather than, they ‘read well’. The children will receive a stamp for two comments in a week.
Moving on to PE, we will normally do PE on Tuesday or Wednesday, but please can children bring their kit in on a Monday and leave it in all week in case we have to change things round. They need to have two pairs of shoes in school, one for Rowan’s and one for indoor use. They also need a spare pair of socks so that they do not get their school socks wet in PE and have to wear them for the rest of the day.
For the last 25 minutes of a Friday afternoon we have ‘Golden Time’. This is a reward for all the children who do their best and do the right thing all the time. They get 25 minutes to do as they please. Every child is entitled to this ‘Golden Time’ as long as they have behaved well, worked hard, done their homework and passed their spelling test.
Additionally, during the afternoon sessions we have put aside time and resources to provide specific children with targeted work. Mrs Lupton will be delivering this and parents of children who it involves will be contacted directly.
This terms topic is ‘Early Man’. The children will continue to develop their chronological understanding of British history from the beginning of our species. We will be starting 2 million years ago when the first humans roamed the earth to around the time when Jesus was born. We will explore what is known about the way they lived and how the progression was made from the Stone-Age, into the Bronze-Age, then the Iron-Age. We will study prehistorical dwellings and settlements that have been discovered in this country. We will produce cave art and use natural materials much as prehistoric man would have done.
Just a quick note on the SATs… at some stage I will organise a meeting for parents, so I can explain to you what happens and what is expected of you and the children. However, unlike many other schools, we make SATs take a back-seat and I do not want the children overly worried about them. Obviously, I want them to do their best and fulfil their potential and will put every ounce of effort I have into supporting them to achieve this, but their happiness and enjoyment of school is my number one priority. Nonetheless, I recognise that feeling like they are doing well increases their enjoyment of school, so I would encourage Year 6 parents to engage with the children’s homework and make sure they do it properly rather than rushing it. If they find something difficult let me know or get them to practice more of it. If the children are motivated to do it, then doing extra work has never hurt anyone, so encourage them to do as much as they feel like.
Other business – Pencil cases were introduced last year and the experiment largely worked. The children enjoy having them and it didn’t cause the problems that it potentially could have. They do not need a pencil case but are welcome to bring one. It must be compact in size. They are not allowed biros or pencil toppers. All children must have wellies, spares (waterproof trousers or trackies) and a waterproof coat in school every day. They also need a water bottle. Please put your child’s name in everything!! There are 32 in the class and I can’t be expected to match unnamed jumpers, t-shirts, shoes or underpants up with their owners. When it is your child’s birthday, it is lovely to have a cake to share amongst the children and we enjoy singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to your child, but please be aware that we have a child who cannot eat egg or nuts and there are 32 children. So when you send cake in please send it big enough for 32 and bare in mind the person who can’t have egg or nuts.
P.S. at 2713 words long this is possibly my longest ever so you have certainly completed you reading homework for today!