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Topics and CfE

Discussion in 'Scotland - Primary' started by dreamteacher, Feb 26, 2011.

  1. As teaching is now supposed to allow more flexibility in achieving the outcomes ( and the old topic planning grids which ensured a balance of subjects was taught across the primary sectors are being binned) is the content of a topic important?
    I get very worried when I hear that traditional topics of life cycles etc being ditched and others centred around Mario Kart and Guitar Hero are replacing them. Are we dumbing down too much? I feel that we have a duty to raise awareness of the world we live live in as well as our past and I think that children already get plenty of fun stuff at home. Shouldn't we be encouraging perseverance by helping them tackle things which may not be as appealing initially, but can with an enthuastic teacher be opened up to them. This, I think would equip them better for the real world and not merely provide instant gratification?
    What do others think? Are other school pursuing this route? Are we the only misguided fools?
     
  2. As teaching is now supposed to allow more flexibility in achieving the outcomes ( and the old topic planning grids which ensured a balance of subjects was taught across the primary sectors are being binned) is the content of a topic important?
    I get very worried when I hear that traditional topics of life cycles etc being ditched and others centred around Mario Kart and Guitar Hero are replacing them. Are we dumbing down too much? I feel that we have a duty to raise awareness of the world we live live in as well as our past and I think that children already get plenty of fun stuff at home. Shouldn't we be encouraging perseverance by helping them tackle things which may not be as appealing initially, but can with an enthuastic teacher be opened up to them. This, I think would equip them better for the real world and not merely provide instant gratification?
    What do others think? Are other school pursuing this route? Are we the only misguided fools?
     
  3. Never heard the like before! We're still doing the same old topics although there is now more freedom to take it in the direction you want, allowing the kids more say in the form it will take etc. But Mario Kart and Guitar Hero? What on earth are they going to gain from that apart from the deluded idea that we can all be famous and that "stardom" is a career choice, not? No wonder you are concerned and rightly so I would say.
     
  4. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    Yes, other schools are being encouraged to let the children decide what topics they want to study.
    Wasn't there an article recently about a P4 class who decided to use 'Spongebob Squarepants' as their topic because that is what interested them. Apparently some HMIe Inspectors think this is the way to improve pupil learning.
    Personally I can't see what was wrong with 5-14. Okay, it was overloaded, and somewhat prescriptive, so all that was really necessary was to give teachers more freedom in the topics they could select from the guidelines.
    Come to think of it, that is how education used to be back in the 70s and 80s. Teachers had more time to focus on key skills in reading, writing and mathematics and there was support from visiting specialists for Music, PE, Art, Fabric Craft and Drama, although not necessarily all in one school at the same time.
    Topic work / projects allowed teachers flexibility to pursue their own particular interests and strengths and the learning experience for the pupils was as important as the facts learned. It also helped that teachers didn't have to fill out a five page risk assessment before visiting a local museum, pond, learning centre or exhibition.
    Arguably children had a far more rounded educational experience and even average, and below average, pupils had a grasp of literacy and numeracy that would put even some of today's bright pupils to shame.
    It is a tragedy that today's education has become dumbed down, not because the children are potentially any less able or the staff any less keen to do a professional job, but because a state theory of learning, excessive scrutiny and over-the-top accountability, and mountains of unnecessary paperwork have clogged up the whole system.
    If a CfE was supposed to free up teachers and pupils to be more productive, it has, I would suggest, done the exact opposite of what was intended.
    I suspect it will take years to undo the damage.
     
  5. daisy_chain

    daisy_chain New commenter

    I used Guitar Hero as a topic! It worked really well! It was the world tour version so the topic was really learning about different countries as well as looking at the music industry. The children really enjoyed it and in reality it wasn't kids sitting about playing the game all day, the children had to work hard to prove they were ready to play a show and did a gig about once or twice a week (totalling about twenty minutes!) In fact thinking back it was a great topic! Mario Kart though? Not sure about that!

     
  6. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    Yes, I can understand how the children would enjoy the topic but what are they really learning?
    Guitar Hero World Tour is an electronic game simulator in which the users pretend to play like rock stars, strumming and stroking the guitar-shaped controller and pressing the colour-coded fret buttons in sinc with the onscreen instructions.
    However, learning to play a real guitar, like any musical instrument, takes hours of regular practice if you want to reach a reasonable standard. Is this really learning about the music industry? No, it's about using a computer game's programme to pretend to be a musician.
    As for learning about different countries - in what depth can this be done if it involves travelling from one concert venue to another? The reality is most real bands spend hours travelling in tour buses or sitting around in airports or hotel rooms. Also, because of tight schedules, they usually get to see very little of the countries or cities they visit.
    Most part-time bands, if they're lucky, get to play around local pubs and clubs and, remember, they can actually play real instruments. What message are we giving to children and young people if they think they can become successful rock stars and be famous with just the help of computer technology?
    Okay, I'm over-egging the pudding. It's only a bit of harmless fun, it ticks the 'haved used technology' box and what's wrong with a little bit of make believe? Nothing, except this is not something they can just play with in their bedroom at home. It's actually replacing part of the school curriculum.
    Or am I missing something? Is education increasingly about keeping children and young people entertained?
    Time I think to dig out the old Monopoly board - that should tick the enterprise box. [​IMG]
     
  7. daisy_chain

    daisy_chain New commenter

    Well it's not a technology topic for me, it's social studies. It used to be called Globetrotting and the children had to plan a trip around the world. The P7s found it boring but it was their "geography" topic for the year. GHWT is a fun and relevant way to do the same thing but get them interested! They essentially are learning the same things but for me they seemed totally engaged and motivated. As I say they did not sit around playing it all day, it was actually a small part of the week they got to have their gig. Children can become so apathetic, and I say use any means possible to get them interested! This worked for me. I think children do realise that it is only a game and that playing guitar in real life takes actual time and practise!
    It was good cross-curricularly too! The writing I got out of some of these children was amazing, especially the boys. Children who had no motivation before suddenly wanted to write about their tour, write a review about their band's gig. Children who hate maths couldn't wait to plan their journey to the next country and cost it!
    Has this been used in your school? By the sounds of things it's not been used in quite the same way!

     
  8. rednelly84

    rednelly84 New commenter

    I find it very interesting and motivating to read ideas like the one from daisy_chain. After all, us teachers are supposed to be creative, enthusiastic individuals and this clearly ticks both boxes for me.
    I do understand the concerns over children choosing Mario Kart as a topic but with a little guidance from the class teacher, couldn't that topic be a modern interpretation on transport, perhaps?
    :)
     
  9. Thanks for the replies, it has been intersting to read different points of view.
    Although I can see how these topics would be a motivational tool, I doubt that they give anything like the knowledge that more traditional topics teach.
    If they are more about motivation and skills development, then shouldn't they be used as a context for delivering literacy and maths times under the cross-curricular/ inter-disciplinary banner. Used in this manner there would still be "topic time" to pursue learning experiences that will actually leave the children with something which will be useful in their future.
    I find that many children expect to be entertained in the afternoon sessions, as in our school most core work is completed in the morning session. Doing any language work pm is very hard work and requires lost of enthusiasm and drive on the part of the teacher. Also perseverance is an issue all round and even with tasks that are very appealing at the outset many kids quickly lose interest. I believe that the culture of computer games and the wonderful attempts of teachers to make thing much more exciting make actually be backfiring on us. I feel we need to instill in the children the idea that real gain require real effort and that things don't always come easily and instantly. I suppose it's all about values- the teacher's values! And that's what worries me about CfE. These children are going to have to work ( hopefully) in jobs that may prove boring or tedious, are we really equipping them with the necessary skills?

     
  10. I couldn't agree more, and that's if they even manage to get a job.
     
  11. This is a bit of a worry for me too. Our school are very big on planning the topics with the children. However, many of our children have a very limited life experience and often don't know how they want to take a topic forward when it is suggested to them. One way round this may be to start a topic off with quite formal lessons, then allow them a given number of sessions at the end of a topic block to research the aspects of it that they are particularly interested in - whether it is something which has been touched on in previous lessons or a completely different aspect. The beginning of a topic may not necessarily always be the best point to hand over the controls to the children.
    Furthermore, if all of our topics have to be based on the children's interests, there is a danger that we could be covering the same ground again and again. Part of our job as teachers is to broaden the child's knowledge of the world they live in.


     
  12. I think that the Curriuclum is actually giving us teachers a lot more freedom to use our professional judgement. You do need to follow your school's lead but there is a Curriculum to follow (and for children to make progression through). Child centred learning - yes, completely child lead learning - no! Children can be given choices within the topic you are teaching them (how they learn, what they want to learn etc.) but there has to be - as one of my collegues put it a 'hidden structure' to your topics. Otherwise, it's just chaos! How can you plan? How can you plan for assessment? I agree that this may be a good idea in the Nursery but even then the Nursery staff choose which questions to investigate further and how to develop the topic.

    I take my hat of to those teaching in inventive new ways and using new technology - after all that's where the future will lie and there is no use in ignoring it. If the children can learn their global geography using GHWT then great! It's your class, your school, it's what inspires them!
     
  13. The reality, however, is that they will probably be grateful just to have a job and that means having the skills, knowledge and commitment that employers require.

    The job of a teacher is, indeed, to inspire but also to encourage a sense of realism, a love of learning and a willingness to make a sustained effort.

    I have to say I find your comments a little pessimistic (you will probably say realistic) but, to me, if you can inspire a child in school then half the battle is won. I have to point out that I am not just talking here about the actual subject but being inspired to learn more; to investigate the world; to have the enthusiasm and conviction not to give up! It is a teachers role to give the children skills to go on to further learning in the future. If there is no enthusiasm or excitement then children will not want to learn.

    You have to teach the outcomes - it is up to you (and the school) how you do so. I would rather do it in a stimulating, exciting, engaging way. But, hey, that's just me!
     
  14. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    I think I would agree with you - up to a point - and, of course, many teachers have been providing an exciting curriculum for generations using the environment around them as a stimulus.
    However, I believe that we have to distinguish between inspiring pupils and simply keeping them entertained and there needs to be a balance in the curriculum between basic formal learning and more exciting activities.
    To give an example - from time to time, it's not unusual for LAs, or specialist associations, to organise Science Festivals to give pupils hands-on experience of science in action.
    This usually involves pressing buttons, turning cogs and other physical activities that children enjoy and a great deal of money is spent devising presentations that will engage, and stimulate, positive interaction.
    Because of the subject matter, it is almost guaranteed that a television crew will attend and the commentary will go something like this:
    "This is not science as most parents will remember it. These children are the budding scientists of tomorrow. They are learning about science in a practical way that is fun for everyone."
    There then follows an interview session with pupils where they tell the presenter that this sort of experience is much better than the boring work they do back in school - they've learned so much.
    The truth of course is that few, if any, of them are going to be the budding scientists of tomorrow. Yes, they've had a fun day out but becoming a scientist is not just about being inspired and engaged. It's about putting in a great deal of work to obtain the necessary qualifications at school to go on to study for a science degree.
    The old adage about success being 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration is, I would suggest, still true. Okay, so pehaps I am being an educational 'party-pooper'. Able, and above average, children are still going to be successful because they are generally motivated to work.
    Unfortunately, I believe there is an increasing number of perfectly able children of average ability who are failing to achieve their potential because they are not acquiring basic skills in English Language and Mathematics or developing the study skills, and self-motivation, that are necessary to progress in education, the workplace or life in general.
    It's always interesting to meet former pupils and find out how they are getting on. I am sometimes surprised at how perceptive they are about their time at primary school and how appreciative they are of both the formal teaching they received and the more exciting activities they experienced.
    The important issue, I would suggest, is maintaining a balance.
     
  15. daisy_chain

    daisy_chain New commenter

    I totally agree that you have to find and maintain a balance. I would still be teaching core maths, and then perhaps relating it to the subject. For example, teaching mean, mode, median to the children in the usual way and then using this with their GHWT scores.
    I am no airy fairy young thing! I am pretty old school when it comes to bums in seats and working quietly, it has it's place of course. I think that getting the balance is key.
     

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