BBC micro:bit Project
Our BBC micro:bit Pilot Project began in September 2016 in Pat Butler’s 5th Class. We had been following the development of the micro:bit with great interest and noted that where there is a genuine interest in developing STEM and technology in schools that investment follows. BBC with corporate support provided over 1 million of these free to 11 year olds in UK schools.
A corporate sponsor came on board to buy us 35 on condition they remain anonymous.
The Micro Bit was designed to encourage children to get actively involved in writing software for computers and building new things, rather than being consumers of media. It has been designed to work alongside other systems, such as the Raspberry Pi, building on BBC's legacy with the BBC Micro for computing in education.
Work began in Pat Butler’s class and the children, through familiarity with Scratch programming, began using the Block programming.
Our intention is that the children will get to take them home and continue to program using mobile devices and Bluetooth. A world of projects can be found at https://www.microbit.co.uk/
and the only limit is your imagination. Follow us on Twitter @ScoilIde to see how the project progresses.
In recent years we have increased the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) emphasis in our teaching and learning. Through parental support we have invested in a Science Room, Outdoor Classroom and technology kits. Scratch programming is taught from 3rd to 6th classes. The Lego Mindstorms kits and programming is taught in 5th and 6th Class as well as in the Afterschool Mindstorms Club which runs in second term. The national curriculum in Science and maths is augmented by Cognitive Acceleration programmes in these areas. Children’s interest in these areas is further encouraged by varying construction and technology challenges throughout the year and visits from specialists.
What is Aistear?
Aistear is the new Early Childhood Curriculum Framework for children from birth to six years in Ireland. Because early childhood marks the beginning of children’s lifelong learning journeys, this framework is called Aistear, the Irish word for journey.
The Framework helps children grow and develop as confident and competent learners through fun, interesting and challenging experiences.
The value of play:
Play is a central teaching and learning methodology which is used across all of the subjects of the infant curriculum, especially literacy and numeracy.
Play helps young children to
- build relationships with each other and with adults
- learn language
- do things for themselves
- read, write, and learn about maths
- try things out
- use their small and large muscles
Aistear highlights the importance of playas a way to teach and learn in infant classes.
Play in the classroom:
In Scoil Ide we use Aistear alongside the Primary School Infant Curriculum. The lessons are planned thematically with five different play stations in each Aistear lesson. Each of the play areas is rich in learning consequences.
The children in infants really enjoy Aistear and we are seeing lots of benefits such as active learning, problem solving, co-operative learning and language learning. This month junior and senior infants have really enjoyed working in Santa’s Toyshop. In the Toyshop, they constructed lots of toys, negotiated prices and helped reply to Santas letters!!
Play at home:
Aistear can also be used at home. We can think about how children play at home, both inside and outside.
- What do they like playing best?
- Who do they like playing with? What do you play with them?
- What kinds of things do they play with?
- What might they be learning through their play?
In our modern, globally interconnected society, it is more important than ever that children understand the world around them. For that reason, Scoil Ide is embarking on a new initiative called Geo-literacy.
Geo-literacy is the ability to use geographic understanding and geographic reasoning to make decisions. Whether we are making decisions about where to live, what precautions to take for natural hazards, or understanding human and natural systems, we are all called upon to make decisions that require geo-literacy throughout our lives.
In Scoil Ide Geo-Literacy will be used to integrate literacy into other subject areas, to improve learning outcomes in reading, and ease time pressure on curriculum implementation.
There has been much written recently about the “smart economy” and the need for the education system to focus more on science and maths. In Scoil Íde we have taken our own steps to emphasise science teaching. We have always had very satisfactory scores on standardised tests in Maths but to further develop the children’s understanding in Maths we are undertaking a programme called “Cognitive Acceleration in Maths Education”. These lessons were extended to all classes in September 2010 after being trialled during the previous school year.
Cognitive Acceleration in Maths Education
The development of the 'Let’s Think Through Maths' programme originated in the UK during the 1970s. At the time educational researchers gave three Piagetian tests to 14,000 children between the ages of 10 and 16 to find out the range of thinking levels for each year of age. This survey demonstrated that, by the age of 14, only 20% were showing formal operational thinking (Piagetian Levels 3A & 3B). This mattered because the existing O Level science and maths courses- designed for grammar school in the top 20% of the ability range- required this level of thinking from the end of second year in secondary school. The Irish equivalent is the end of First Year in secondary school. This is also relevant to the current debate in Ireland about mathematics and the sciences. Some researchers at university level believe that rote learning for the points driven Leaving Cert. masks the fact that a sizeable proportion of students have no deep understanding of maths or science.
At the time no-one wanted to believe the results which seemed to show that the levels of the other 80% were spread out between the levels of the average 6 year old and the average 12 year old. In the 1980s another research project found empirically that by the age of 12 the mathematical competence had a 12 year gap between those who were above average at one end of the spectrum and those at the other end. In the mid-1980s to mid -1990s the 'Thinking Science' (Adey, Shayer and Yates, 2001) and 'Thinking Maths'(Adhami, Johnson and Shayer, 1998) projects for pupils aged 12 to 14 were created with the intention of increasing the proportion of pupils with formal operational ability and enhancing the development of all pupils. It was shown that the proportion of formal operational thinkers could be doubled by age 14 and that later, their GCSE performance was boosted to the same degree.
The fact that such teaching benefitted pupils in the first two years of secondary school led researchers to examine if the same processes would benefit primary school children. Additional evidence about brain development supported this idea: there are two major brain growth spurts in children- one around age 5-6 and another between 10 and 12.
The materials we are using are 'Let’s Think Through Maths' and 'Primary CAME Thinking Maths'. The CAME approach uses Vygotsky’s work on development and Piaget’s work on children’s thinking to put children in a position where, in collaboration with their peers, they may construct key mathematical reasoning patterns for themselves. There are three stages.
1. Cognitive challenge –challenging activities are devised for the children and they are helped to meet those challenges. If we continually make our demands on children easier and easier we are actually doing them a disservice
2. Social Construction – Much learning takes place between children in a group, but this process needs to be well managed by an adult. Scaffolding or modelling learning is of vital importance. Initially, the teacher demonstrates aspects of the learning process for the children – by questioning, speculating, and pondering ideas. Then the children will begin to do this for themselves.
3. Metacognition is when children are consciously aware of their own thinking, think of themselves as learners, are helped to develop the ability to evaluate their thinking and are continually made aware of their own active role in the learning process. The term Metacognition is used to describe this self-awareness.
CAME is all about allowing the children to work out what is going on for themselves but making sure that at the end of the lesson the teacher brings all those ideas together again, guiding but saying as little as possible. The teacher has three aims.
· To look ahead and organise the specific challenges so that the children develop in the right direction.
· To manage the children’s discussion; As well as reporting their own thinking, the children must listen and respond to the reports of others’ thinking; To promote good listening, questioning and dialogue by and between children.
· To encourage a classroom culture in which enquiry, collaborative learning and the sharing of ideas become dominant themes. The aim is to develop each child’s mathematical thinking to its fullest potential rather than simply to achieve correct answers.
We believe that children who experience Cognitive Acceleration Programmes will benefit hugely in their Science and Mathematics in years to come.
Science: Thanks to the generosity of parents through our annual fundraising we were in a position to upgrade our facilities for teaching science in Scoil Íde. Although fostering an interest in science education is supposedly a major government policy it has never been backed up at primary level with any substance. Now we are delighted that we have a dedicated, purpose designed Science Room which all classes will use regularly to conduct the hands-on investigations and experiments necessary to develop scientific skills. Our Outdoor Classroom was completed in September 2009 and contains a poly-tunnel for growing seeds and plants, a wildlife pond and observation deck, bog garden, alpine garden, raised planting areas, sensory plant area, wormery, bug boxes, mini-beast mansion, bird feeders, nesting boxes, a weather station which streams live weather data on the Learning Platform on our website, rock study area, compost bins and sand box. All the water for the Outdoor Classroom is harvested from the roof into storage butts. We are certain that the Outdoor Classroom will provide a great incentive to children to become interested in the life sciences.
Music: Music is taught in every standard in the school but we make extra provision in certain classes. Recorder is taught by a specialist music teacher to every child in 3rd and 4th classes. Children are then chosen to join the Junior Ensemble, which practises once per week and performs twice yearly. The Wind Ensemble is also part of the Scoil Ide Orchestra. . As children move up through the school we encourage them to go to music schools for individual tuition or to join our Orchestra. Private classes (Fee Paying) in violin are available after school. The Scoil Ide Choir practises and performs regularly. The Scoil Ide Orchestra is conducted by Marian Ryan and is made up of strings, wind and percussion. The Orchestra rehearses once a week and performs regularly.
Violin Project: We have purchased 30 violins and each of the First Classes get a forty minute lesson each week provided by violin teacher and Scoil Íde Orchestra Director Marian Ryan. These classes began for all of our First Classes in September 2010 after being trialled the previous school year. We are very excited about this project as it gives the children the opportunity to learn an instrument at an early age. After the year parents can decide if they are sufficiently interested to follow up with private lessons. The discipline and challenge of learning a musical instrument is of huge benefit to children, not alone in terms of musical enjoyment, but also to their academic ability. It is gratifying to see the children who began in 1st Class now progressing into our Orchestra.
Information Technology: Our original website was first launched in December 1999 and has evolved over time and many re-designs into today's Content Management System based on Joomla. Since September 2000 our I.T. Room in the senior school has been in use. In addition to a networked PC in every classroom we have 12 networked PCs in the IT Room. The children learn the intricicies of preparing documents, making files and folders, using digital cameras, preparing projects and using PowerPoint. Digital video cameras are used for recording school events. All 28 classrooms have Interactive White Boards and we have obtained two suites of 16 laptop computers for classroom use. A set of 16 iPads was added in 2012 added to with another 16 in 2016. A Learning Platform for staff use has been developed and our Learning Platform for children and parents has been in operation since October 2009. Integration of ICT into all subject areas is the next aim in our ICT Plan. In 2010 we began using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) with the children. Some classes now set assisgnments and homework through the VLE. It is proving very popular with the children.
Modern Languages: At a time when the UK was extending the teaching of modern languages to 8 year olds our Government cut the funding which made the modern language programme in primary schools possible. After teaching Spanish since 1998 our programme finished in June 2012.Scoil Ide had been part of the Department of Education and Science Pilot Project on Modern Languages since its inception. Scoil Ide was awarded the prestigious European Award for Languages in 2005 for innovative teaching of a European language.
English Reading: Over the past few years we have moved away from the class reader as a means of teaching English reading in the senior school. Children now work initially on sets of novels completing a novel every four weeks or so. While reading the novels they complete comprehension work as well as trying to understand the characters and the plot. Favourites so far this year appear to be "Holes", "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" and "Chinese Cinderella". Research has shown that reading ability increases in relation to the amount of reading done so we are happy that although, we always had a very high standard of reading in the school, this will further enhance this. As well as working on the novels classes from time to time work for short concentrated periods on the Reading Laboratories known to the children as the "SRA". "Buddy Reading" where older children are paired with younger pupils has begun and we hope that this will further encourage emerging readers. The school has also dedicated resources to reading in Senior Infants and First Class where all the children are listened to reading every day. Reading is the key to all academic success in school and every effort is made to support it.
Writer of the Month: Each month the 5th and 6th Classes are invited to prepare and write essays on set topics. The topics vary from "My Favourite Place" to letters to Santa. The best essays each month are acknowledged at Assembly and the authors are rewarded with tokens. The work is featured in the Senior School with pen pictures of the young writers. The work also features on the school website and in the annual publication of student writing published by the Students' Council.
Students' Council:The Scoil Ide Student's Council was formed in 1999 and is made up of two representatives from each of the 5th and 6thClasses. The Representatives are elected at the start of the year and are expected to be a good example to all. The Council meets fortnightly and reviews its operations. The Council is also involved in contributing to the Scoil Ide News, organising school events, representing the school at public events and preparing the Scoil Ide Magazine made up of pupil writing. Members of the Council are also responsible for the "Eco-Friendly Classroom Competition". The members of the Council are presented with specially commissioned replica badges of the school crest.
Chaplaincy: We are especially proud of School Chaplaincy. The school chaplains are regular visitors to the classes where they work in conjunction with the Teaching Team in encouraging the children towards a deeper understanding of their faith. As well as assisting with the sacramental preparation they hold Advent and Lenten Services for senior classes in which the vital part is the participation of the children. All classes from 3rdClass up attend the morning Mass at 9.45 a.m. in nearby St. Munchin's College Chapel once per month between November and Easter. The Chaplaincy Team organises Retreats for the 6th Classes. The Chaplains are also available to parents. They can be contacted, confidentially, through the School Office.
Hunt Museum: Children regularly take part in the education programme from the Hunt Museum. Recent visits have seen the children participate in simulated archaeological digs and studies of costumes, which the children were allowed to wear.
Physical Education: All classes in the school learn PE but with the aim of providing the widest possible education experience we bring in a number of specialist PE Teachers. Classes are provided in hurling, basketball, rugby, Irish Dancing, creative and expressive dance, swimming, and hockey on a timetabled basis. School Teams regularly compete in rugby, hurling, camogie, soccer, Gaelic Football, Girls' Gaelic Football and basketball.
Chess: All Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Classes are taught to play chess as part of the educational enrichment programme that operates in the school. Chess ladders are in operation in many of the classrooms. An Annual Tournament is held in the school for all interested pupils. The Tournament is scored on the best of five matches on a special computer programme. The Scoil Ide Chess Club operates after school once a week and is very popular.
Educational Enrichment Programme: Conscious of the fact that some children need additional challenges we have put in place an Educational Enrichment Programme. Initial work includes opportunities for creative and personal writing; weekly Maths challenges; literature quizzes; historical research and chess. We also participate in engineering challenges as part of the IEI "Steps" programme for primary schools. Internal "design and build" challenges also take place each year. A Science and Technology Club operates throughout the year and Reading Clubs are active in the summer term. The highest achieving children in Maths and English are offered extra challenges in Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth classes.
"Building Bridges of Understanding": We are delighted to have been one of the schools which worked closely with Dr. Martin Gleeson of Mary Immaculate College on on the pilot 'Building Bridges of Understanding' Project. The goal of the project is to disseminate effective practice on comprehension strategy instruction using Multiple Comprehension Strategy Instruction and consequently improve literacy outcomes for children across a range of age and grade levels. The comprehension strategies are taught to all classes in a systematic manner and have proven to be very successful.
Encouraging Spoken Irish:
The revised Irish curriculum places much more emphasis on using Irish as a means of communication. We have devised a number of programmes in the school to do this and encourage interaction between children in different classes such as "Cáirde Cainte" where children from different standards meet once per month during class to practise their spoken Irish. Some classes also swap teachers for short sessions to get them used to hearing another voice in Irish - ‘Guth Eile' .
In addition we are also using a common phrase each week- ‘Nath na Seachtaine' . This appears in the monthly Scoil Ide News and is also on the Homepage of the school website.
Awards: The ACE awards are an integral part of the Senior Cycle where children are acknowledged on a monthly basis at Assembly for Attainment, Community Spirit and Effort. Two pupils from each class are honoured each month for their part in school life. Academic Excellence Awards are presented to the pupils who attain the highest scores in Christmas and Summer Tests. An Overall Student of the Year Award is made to the highest scoring student at the end of Sixth Class.
Sportsperson of the Year is also acknowledged for sporting ability and behaviour. Musician of the Year award is presented to the pupil who has contributed most to the Musical life of the school.