It was the one snow day when everyone was pleased to be at school - for the third Primary Rocks Live conference.
Hundreds of primary teachers made their way to Medlock primary, Manchester, today to hear about ideas for their classroom ranging from using picture books to teach science to using Jurassic Park to spark writing.
The event was put together by the team behind the popular #primaryrocks twitter chat which takes place on Monday evenings at 8pm.
The chat poses four questions each week, and is known for its humour as well as the valuable help it gives teachers searching for inspiration. It has even been credited by one teacher for giving her the strength to carry on.
At today’s conference speakers included education consultant Nina Jackson, Graham Andre, a teacher whose Year 3 class at Lanesend primary on the Isle of Wight featured on the BBC TV show No More Boys and Girls last year and TES data doctor James Pembroke.
Tickets this year sold out in under five minutes, topping the success of last year’s event. And #primaryrocks was soon trending on twitter, despite strong competition from St Patricks Day, the weather and the rugby.
Here are some of the things we learnt:
- Gender biases start young – but schools can help.
Graham Andre, a teacher at Lanesend primary in the Isle of Wight who took part in the BBC documentary No More Boys and Girls, talked about the messages, slogans and labels on T-shirts which describe boys as “cool” and girls as “pretty”. “Before I was part of this documentary, I was not aware of it at all,” he told delegates. “Now I see it everywhere.” While teachers do not explicitly say ‘boys are better’ to children, they get the message through the media, he explained. “But if we can make a bit of a difference in the classroom. I think that would really help,” he concluded.
- To help children write well about tension – make them feel tense.
Ben Connor, Year 4 teacher and English co-ordinator at St Maxentius primary, Bolton, revealed how he uses clips from films such as Jurassic Park and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (“I wouldn’t show them the whole film”) to help children experience emotions – and analyse how they were created through the story. And he gave writing tips such as using foreshadowing. “But don’t. over-do. Short sentences,” he added.
- Data collection may be hindering, not helping your pupils
"We measure too much, some things we can't measure but we're desperate to do so because of external pressures of accountability. But is ticking every box distracting us from the core purpose of teaching children?" James Pembroke, school data consultant and Tes columnist asked.
- Be kind ... and not just to others
Gaz Needle, head of St Joseph’s RC Junior, Infant and Nursery in Oldham, is one of the founders of #primaryrocks and had three messages for delegates. “Don’t be cynical – not everybody is in it for their own worth. Make it work for yourself – if your school doesn’t love you, find a school that loves you. And be kind.” And, on the subject of kindness, Nina Jackson, education consultant and the author of 'Of Teaching, Learning and Sherbet Lemons' pointed out that teachers should remember to be kind to themselves before they can be kind to others.
- Primary Rocks Live provokes strong emotions.
“As a headteacher I go to a lot of conferences,” Brian Walton, head of Brookside Academy in Street, Somerset, said. “This one is so much more exciting, friendly and approachable than others. It’s the one event in my calendar I really look forward to – even more than my birthday.”
And, despite the mini beast from the east, there was - as promised - ice cream.