Dear Parents and Friends
Once again I find myself starting my newsletter with the phrase “as I sit here”, but on this occasion it is “as I sit here on the day which is forecast to be the coldest of the year so far”. That, of course, brings to mind the old adage that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing: and I feel that this is applicable to so many aspects of the current lockdown, which will hopefully soon be coming to an end for at least the majority of us.
Staff, pupils and parents have continued to throw themselves in with great energy and adaptability to remote learning, and you will see below the evidence of the breadth and depth of what has been going on over the last few weeks. The addition of live PE and games lessons has proved a big hit, so thank you to Mr Godfrey and his team for those. Our twice-weekly assemblies are a particular (slightly chaotic!) joy for me, and it’s heartening to hear of children’s ongoing achievements in lockdown. Thank you for sharing those with me, and please do continue to do so. We have also added Buddy Assemblies to our repertoire this term. They have also proved popular and that is something we will continue with, ringing the changes by swapping the pairings as we go along.
We regularly bring our learning habits to the attention of our pupils as part of the moral compass by which they are guided, and these habits have really been thrown into relief over the last months. Last term collaboration took on a new meaning when we were challenged to collaborate virtually rather than in person; a challenge which has been met head-on by all members of our community, even though it does not feel like something that comes naturally to us. Our headline learning habits this term, creativity and resilience, can be seen as representing two sides of the coin: those of our staff who teach creative subjects have found lockdown possibly a more difficult challenge than the rest of us; but my, have they risen to it! It is by keeping expectations high that staff have been able to inspire such creativity in your children; and I know that in many homes there will now be heavily-laden mantelpieces, shelves and window sills as a result! We have all needed to show resilience during this term; and as we look forward to the return to site this resilience will start to show in a different way as we seek to return to normality, whilst at the same time having to carry with us all the individual and shared experiences that we have had over the past year.
I would again like to take the opportunity to thank all the staff who have worked tirelessly to inspire and engage our pupils over this last half term; and also for taking the time to contribute both words and pictures to this newsletter, which I hope you will enjoy reading.
Our Year 6 children have slipped seamlessly back into their remote learning lifestyle and have shown yet again how resilient they are. Across the curriculum, live lessons have ensured that the Year 6 work ethic has continued unabated. Most impressively, the many new pupils amongst our Year 6 cohort have also demonstrated just how mature they are, contributing wholly to our lessons and impressing their teachers with their work ethic. The new break-out rooms available on Google Classroom have proved very popular and have enabled children to develop further their working relationships with peers, particularly important during this period of ‘remoteness’. It has been really pleasing too to see those children attending school giving of their best and ensuring that their learning continues seamlessly as well.
In the core subjects of maths and English, pupils have continued with their regular curriculum work. English lessons have concentrated on Greta Thunberg’s ‘No one is too Small to make a Difference’ and Quentin Blake’s ‘A Sailing Boat in the Sky’. Both texts have built on the theme of sustainability, and have linked into the UN sustainable goals which Mrs Graham referred to right at the start of the year. In maths, our groups have looked at various topics including fractions, decimals and percentages and the many online resources and apps which we have at our disposal have all been put to great use.
Create, Design and Engineer
Practical subjects have also seen high levels of engagement and every challenge taken on with great gusto! Maybe an apology to folks at home who might need to encourage longer tidy up sessions! However, the creativity and enthusiasm has been fabulous to see as our engineers have tinkered away trying to tackle physics in Year 6, our sculptors braving the process of smelly paper pulp in Year 5, and our Year 4 draughtsmen and draughtswomen considering elements of art in their sketching for automata. With lots of video-making going on behind the scenes, students can go at their own pace and feedback suggests plenty of positive family involvement!
Year 5 has continued to work with creativity and enthusiasm whilst returning to remote learning. They have shown their resilient character and thoughtful approach towards each other, by being patient and helping others to get logged into lessons. In Humanities, Year 5 have explored China, through the history and geography of the Great Wall and by researching its climate, architecture and key features. The childrens’ interest and inquisitive approach has led Year 5 to explore connected themes, like silk weaving, the history of tea and desert plants and animals linking to The Gobi Desert. Year 5 brought together their learning and understanding in the Collaboration Day with our friends at Rosedale House yesterday.
RS lessons have focused on The Old Testament, with an exploration of Abraham and The Ten Commandments. English work has been based around the traditional Chinese story ‘The Willow Pattern.’ They have mastered the boxed up planning tool in order to write their own version of the story with additions and substitutions. They also created a scene from the story using any materials they could find at home. In maths, Year 5 have continued to lay strong foundations when looking at multiplication and division. It was fantastic to share a year group collaborative session, making use of breakout rooms to complete an investigation. We were delighted to mark Children's Mental Health Week last week. The theme of the week was 'Express Yourself' and we were pleased to showcase talents, baking, wacky hair, hats and lots of creative learning. When 5W and 5P work together, great things happen!
Year 4 have settled into the rhythm of remote learning and are continuing to impress with their can-do attitude and their willingness to do their best. Our thematic learning topic has been ‘Zootropolis.’ The children have looked at population size, habitats, researched fascinating facts about a wide variety of animals, designed a zoo and thought about what it would be like to be a zookeeper. They have used a variety of materials found at home to create a model of an animal and its habitat. It has been incredible to see the creativity and ingenuity of the Year 4s.
Our English work has focused on creating a flashback story and a persuasive text. Kung-fu punctuation was a noisy and active fun-filled session! The children have worked in small groups in breakout rooms, which has allowed the continuation of collaborative working and the sharing of ideas. Our maths topics have been multiplication and division, area and fractions. Year 4 have also enjoyed a weekly lockdown challenge. The children also enjoyed sharing their learning with a different year group during our ‘Buddy Assembly.’ The mental health integrated learning week ‘Express Yourself’ was a very successful one for Year 4. They enjoyed lots of mindfulness activities, as well as the opportunity to talk about and represent emotions in a wide variety of ways. Although we don’t know what the next weeks have in store for us, Year 4 will tackle whatever comes their way with determination and enthusiasm!
During remote learning this term, 3M have certainly demonstrated the learning habit of creativity in many of their lessons, choosing a range of apps to present their learning and sharing their great ideas with each other. Whilst investigating light and shadows, they have creatively searched for opaque, transparent and translucent objects and tested the shadows formed with a torch. They also made shadow puppet theatres of their own.
They have become historians, studying the images on Ancient Greek vases and have recreated excellent vases of their own, showing images of everyday life or characters from the myths we have read. Their retelling of the myth about Daedalus and Icarus demonstrated their amazing ability to bring characters to life using adjectives, adverbs, powerful verbs, similes and dialogue. Amazingly, they even managed a trip to the British Museum (virtually) to look at the Parthenon sculptures and many, many vases! If you fancy a bit of culture during lockdown, why not take a look.
Once again, 3M have really impressed Mrs Matthews with their politeness, kindness and confidence. We are very lucky to have used one of our form sessions to let some of the children lead activities, which would have been clubs if we were in school: mindfulness, drawing, iPad and quiz club. Last week’s integrated learning week allowed us to ‘express ourselves’ thinking about ways that make us feel good, considering how we deal with anger and showing acts of kindness. It was a great way to connect with the whole school.
‘Paint me a Picture’ has been an inspirational topic for us all in Year 2. We have looked closely at some of the masters, honed our observational skills, created our own puzzles, designed houses and also looked carefully at sculptures amongst other things. In science we have carried out a chromatography investigation to discover what inks might be made up of. There has been so much to learn and being at home has not stopped us.
We have noted the winter weather both inside and outside making bird feeders for our feathered friends and thinking about visitors such as Jack Frost and the snow last week. Our stories and creative work has kept us very busy!
The learning continues and the children are flourishing and growing in confidence and resilience. Our focus on ‘Wellbeing’ has provided an opportunity to reflect and pause for a while during our busy days with the creation of a simple puzzle and the colouring by numbers as being especially relaxing activities. All of the teachers are extremely proud of the work commitment and enthusiasm. Well done Year 2. What a great half term!
A challenge for you all…how many circles can you see in Beetle’s sculpture?
The children in Year 1 have worked brilliantly this half term, adapting so well to our online lessons. For our virtual launch day it was great to see the children dressed in so many different costumes to celebrate our new topic, ‘People Who Help Us’. Year 1 have shown much curiosity when learning about people who have helped us in the past, such as Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole and were fascinated to see how much our hospitals have changed over time. Making and designing their own emergency vehicle also proved to be a huge hit! The children created the most amazing vehicles, learning how to create their own wheels and axles to make their design move. In English, Year 1 have been enjoying hearing about the adventures of Katie Morag from the Isle of Struay and have used this setting to create their own imaginative stories.
We have all been been getting creative with our Maths, expanding our counting skills to numbers up to 50, with pencils, Lego and even pasta being used to help us practise! Virtual “Number Bond Tennis” has been a great way to reinforce number bonds to ten and get moving. In Plan, Learn, Do, Review the children have utilised their engineering skills to make the tallest tower. Creations from bricks, boxes, cans or loo roll were all magnificent. We have also used this time as an opportunity to reflect on how we could help others in our community including the elderly who may be lonely at this time. The children put on their thinking caps and baked, sang, danced, read stories, coloured, painted, and wrote, to the local care home to spread some joy.
It has been fantastic to see every year group embracing live remote PE lessons with pupils demonstrating outstanding levels of energy and enthusiasm. In lessons we have completed a wide range of fitness workouts, challenges, drills, invented fitness board games, created exercise dice and even given yoga a go. It has been great to see pupils working really hard and increasing their activity and fitness levels as the weeks have progressed. It has also been lovely hearing about what other physical activities pupils have been getting up to outside of the school day. Finally, during the recent integrated learning wellbeing week, it was a perfect opportunity to further highlight the connection between physical activity, mental health and wellbeing.
In Music this term, the children have immersed themselves in a range of topics including The Carnival of the Animals, Stomp, The Seasons, BBC Ten Pieces, and Classical/Romantic music. They have sung beautifully from their kitchens and living rooms through Google Meet and have succeeded in extending their recorder and wider instrumental repertoire, refining their note reading and rhythm skills. Pupils have also engaged in a variety of listening and composition tasks with Year 6 enjoying creating Beethoven and Grieg ‘remixes’ on GarageBand!
Year 5 are also getting to grips with GarageBand, experimenting with it as a recording tool for acoustic and electronic sound. Pupils have enjoyed writing their own songs this term, as well as putting themselves forward to perform in our weekly assemblies. Year 1 have enjoyed connecting with their classmates online by learning and responding creatively to ‘The Friendship Song’ and using their home percussion instruments. Year 2 have started to learn how to play the recorder and are busy finding out about a variety of Instruments of the Orchestra. Some of them are now really keen to start lessons on an orchestral instrument, which is fantastic! Both Years 1 and 2 have had a lot of fun putting together the songs for their production, ‘Tattybogle’, and can’t wait to perform to you later in the year!
Pupils have continued to demonstrate excellent creativity and enthusiasm in their remote drama lessons. It has been lovely to see the students working collaboratively on their practical activities through the use of breakout rooms. Year 4 have explored their ‘Zootropolis’ topic by creating animal shadow puppets, presenting their own Zookeeper videos, creating entertaining circus acts and exploring scenes from the musical, ‘The Lion King.’ Year 5 are diligently continuing to rehearse for their play, ‘The Wizard of Oz’. I have been immensely impressed with students' dedication to learning lines, movement and song so that we are ready to film our play when we’re back in our fantastic theatre! Year 5 have also been devising scenes based on the Oz musical including ‘Ozmopolitan’ news reports! Year 6 are gearing up to record their own audiobooks, based on their favourite fiction. The students spent the first half of the term exploring and evaluating how actors can adapt their voices. They have experimented with tone, pitch, pace, accent, volume and dramatic pause in preparation for their end of topic project and I cannot wait to hear them!
French and Spanish
In French and Spanish, the children across all the different year groups have continued to join in speaking and singing in their languages and taking part in live lessons whole-heartedly. They have continued to broaden their knowledge and competence in using the language in speech, as well as enjoying learning through songs and stories. The older children have also developed their understanding of topics through writing and reading. In French, some of the topics have ranged from rooms in the house, telling the time, animals, dealing with euros, colours and looking at heroes and villains in Cinderella. Whilst in Spanish, children have been finding out about sea creatures, having fun creating a monster as a way to practice parts of the body, writing poems with colours and sharing opinions about sports. Year 6 has travelled virtually to different Spanish-speaking countries and are currently going grocery shopping!
Working once again during lockdown has presented certain challenges when it comes to scientific learning, and all the Science teachers have been hugely impressed by the flexibility, adaptability and creativity that pupils have shown in carrying on with a full programme of learning. We have tried as far as possible to provide opportunities for practical work at home or in key workers’ provision at school, including experiments using simple, easy-to-find materials and observations of things in pupils’ surroundings. External events have provided scientific learning opportunities this term, including, of course, COVID. In Biology, Year 6 were able to make use of recent developments in fighting the virus to deepen their understanding of the immune system and how vaccination works, producing some truly impressive presentations. The dramatic sonic boom which shook much of this part of the country recently provided the impetus for an investigation into the Physics behind this amazing event, as part of our Time Equations topic. We have also been able to keep practical work going in Chemistry, with some ‘kitchen chemistry’ as pupils investigated the pH of various household acids and alkalis.
Year 5 have also risen admirably to the challenge of investigating the topic of forces through remote learning. As well as showing strong research skills, they have proved adept at carrying out home experiments on things like friction and using air resistance to make and test their own paper aeroplanes, gliders and mini helicopters. The Year 4 topic on habitats has provided plenty of opportunities for pupils to make observations of living organisms in the habitats around them, although the cold weather has meant that much of our ‘fieldwork’ has been done from the comfort of our homes or classrooms, looking through windows or exploring indoor habitats!
I leave you with my best wishes for a restful and enjoyable half term.
Head of Dame Bradbury’s 5-11