Chris Fautley looks at videos that allow primary teachers to see what their counterparts elsewhere are doing.
Say Year 6 maths, and you immediately have everybody's attention. The entire lesson runs like clockwork. The rapport is electric, pupils are word perfect, questions are answered instantly and correctly. Concentration never waivers. It's oh-so-easy.
So where did reality end for you? Teaching is seldom like that but, to look at some training videos, you might be forgiven for believing it was. So says Susan Saunders, numeracy consultant for the East Brighton Education Action Zone. Good though their content may be, teachers working in challenging environments have had difficulty using these videos because everything featured is too perfect.
To tackle this problem, the Education Action Zone has produced EAZy Numeracy, a series of training videos shot in real classes. "We wanted to have videos where there were real teachers, real children and real schools and to show that it could be done in the sort of schools we are working in," Susan explains.
Lasting about 30 minutes, they concentrate on whole-class, mixed-ability teaching with an emphasis on language, questioning and visual resources. At the end of each, the featured teacher discusses the lesson. Teacher Vicky Brinkley (right) appears in one video with a Year 6 class from Bevendean Primary. Of the numeracy strategy videos she has seen, she says: "I can think of lots where it's just not plausible in some of our schools - language-wise particularly."
Using a whiteboard, her lesson is themed on "shape". Although filmed with a top set class, she emphasises that she has also used it with mixed ability classes. There is material there for children with even the weakest understanding.
The videos also offer a rare opportunity for sitting in on other teachers'
lessons. "It's a very isolated job," says Vicky. "You don't get to see other people doing the same thing as you."
Numeracy co-ordinators in Education Action Zone Schools who have seen the videos believe they will also be useful to new teachers as well as EAZ schools. Some have been used for teacher training, where they have been described as "gold dust".
Having seen them, says Susan, some teachers may decide to tackle subjects differently. "We are not offering them as exemplars," she explains. "There are points for discussion in all of them. What I would hate people to think is that we're saying, 'Look how perfect our teaching is'. We're saying, 'This is real stuff here'."
EAZy Numeracy seriesNursery: Maths in the Nursery EnvironmentYear 1: AdditionYear 34: MoneyYear 5: Time and problem solvingYear 6: Shape.
pound;5 each from East Brighton Education Action Zone, The Wellsbourne Centre, Whitehawk Road, Brighton BN2 5FL. Tel: 01273 294954