Monthly Archives: July 2015

Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

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Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes

Gravity runs the Universe. This free online course explains why, focussing on key concepts from the Big Bang to black holes.

About the course

What is gravity? This fundamental force is the common theme between concepts as intriguing as the Big Bang, black holes, dark energy, space-time, gravitational waves and the expansion of the Universe.

If these concepts pique your interest, this free online course is for you. It doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe and our place in it.

Mark the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of relativity

The theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, was published exactly 100 years ago. This course presents in a simple manner the main ideas behind this theory, before explaining why “gravity is the engine of the Universe.”

The basic notions are then introduced to understand why the Universe is in expansion. We’ll find out:

• why the further you look, the more distant the past is;
• how we can tell what happened just after the Big Bang;
• what the dark components of the Universe are;
• why we’re so impatiently expecting the discovery of gravitational waves;
• and what happens when you cross the horizon of a black hole.

Learn with experts including a Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Over six weeks, you’ll learn with Pierre Binétruy, the Director of the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics at Paris Diderot University, as well as the cosmologist, George Smoot, who will explain the discovery that earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006.

More information here

Requirements

This course doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe.

New school year, new priorities?⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

In Scotland we are only some two or three weeks away from our return to a new school session. Thoughts of many Headteachers, and teachers, will already be turning to the new school year ahead. So what should our priorities be? Here's some ideas to start with.

As ever, our priority as leaders should be the people we work with, because it is they who are going to deliver the improved outcomes we all seek for our learners. There will probably be a mixture of returning staff and new staff and all will be filled with varying levels of excitement and trepidation about the year ahead. There will probably be a mix of experience levels, NQTs and more experienced colleagues. Indeed as a headteacher you may be the new person and taking up a new post. School leaders need to keep people as a priority throughout the school year. People will have ups and downs over the course of the school year and leaders need to be aware of this and deal with all staff in an emotionally intelligent and empathetic way. We need to see the individuals in all our staff and deal with them in an equitable way, just as we would with our learners. Hopefully everyone returns refreshed, ready to deliver and meet the challenges that lie ahead, and the school leader should have the maintenance of these attitudes throughout the year as a priority.

Your next priority should be to stay true to your development plan. If this has been constructed properly and informed by your self-evaluation processes, it provides you with a roadmap of school development for the year ahead, and protects you from diversions that might come your way. Every school year is built on change and development and the only way to manage and deal with this, so that all retain their focus and their sanity, is by having a plan which is understood by all. Without it you are at the mercy of other agendas and the whims and swings that these can bring. A well thought-out plan enables you to prioritise and focus on the steps that are going to make a difference and keep moving the school forward. It may also help prevent you from being seduced by the latest fads and trends that emerge, and protect you from the snake-oil salesmen with their simple but expensive 'solutions'. So once you have one, stick to it and be prepared to defend it.

The focus of your plan, and of all your actions, needs to be on impact for learners. Everything should be measured in these terms. Your actions should be aimed at producing positive impacts for your learners and you should be able to measure them by this. Sir John Harvey Jones talks of 'keeping the main thing the main thing' in everything we do. Improving the learning experiences and deepening learning and understanding for our learners needs to remain the main thing. Our key job this year will be to ensure this remains the case throughout the year. We need to keep asking the question 'for what purpose?' That purpose should always be to produce positive impacts for learners.

Continuing to focus on learning and teaching has to be a priority for leaders and teachers. All should be committed to improving and developing their practice. Not because we are not good at what we do but, as Dylan Wiliam observes, 'because we can be even better.' If we can all be better, then so can the experiences for all our learners. Teachers should commit to developing the range of pedagogies they employ to facilitate learning, as well as to improving their understanding of learning and their impact on this. As leaders, we need to equally commit to improving our own practice in leading learning so that we are better able to support all our staff to improve. If you are the same teacher, or same leader, as you were five years ago, what have you been doing in the interim? Don't think you may have stood still, the only direction you can have gone is backwards.

We should aim to maintain and develop the school culture and ethos so that it is embraced and understood by all and is one which is built on values, trust and collaborative support for each other. Culture and ethos in learning establishments is becoming more and more recognised as having a large effect size on student performance and attainment. Fullan says 'The primary tool for improvement in any organisation is...cultures that build in learning every day' (The Principal 2014). Get it right and other planned developments have more chance of succeeding and having positive impacts, get it wrong and they are more likely to wither on the vine. It is so important that we start positively about the year ahead, whilst acknowledging the challenges we face in the current climate, and school leaders need to work hard to maintain that positivity as the year develops, the challenges mount and energy levels drop. 

Connected to ethos should be your determination to maintain and improve standards. It is a key responsibility of school leaders to have high expectations for all learners, and that also means for all staff. We shouldn't apologise for that but demonstrate by our actions and our words our commitment to having and setting high standards and expectations. These should not be at the expense of anyone but should be seen as a non-negotiable requirement of yourself and all those you lead, a key element of your culture. You want all learners, as well of all those you lead, to reach their potential and the leader should look to help and support all of them to achieve this. 

Determine to disperse leadership and give all the opportunity to grow and develop leadership skills and capacities. Effective leaders have a responsibility to develop leadership capacities in all and especially those who may be looking to move into more formal leadership roles in the future. So you need to provide staff with opportunities to develop those capacities as part of your mission for the new session. You should also aim to be active participant in system leadership and recognise your role and responsibility to contribute to the development of a self-regulatory and self-improving system. This is particularly important at times when the support that is available from the centre and outside is diminishing. We have a responsibility to all learners within the system, and at all levels, not just the ones in our own schools.

Support and engage actively with continuous professional development. Fullan, Hattie, Timperley and many others have demonstrated the importance of school leaders supporting, and being active participants, in professional development activities within their schools. Embrace career long professional learning which is focused on developing individuals in order to improve schools as a whole, and which lead to positive outcomes for learners. Focus on meaningful professional development that is aimed at a relentless desire to get better and improve by everyone and the recognition that quick fixes and 'silver bullets' either don't work or don't exist.

The last few possible priorities are to do with you and your attitudes and behaviours as a school leader. We all know that school leaders are crucial to school development and improvement. They can make it or break it. We also understand that headship is a difficult, challenging and complex activity. But we also recognise that it is a fabulous and deeply rewarding profession that allows us all to make a difference for so many. The performance of your staff and yourself is so much determined by your attitudes and behaviours so enjoy yourself. Recognise the fabulous job you have and enjoy the ride. Resolve not to take things too personally and enjoy all those highs you can get each day from both learners and staff as they grow and develop. Remember to smile more. This makes you feel better and also all those round about you. You will have lots of reasons to smile throughout the year, so embrace them and enjoy the moment. Keep a sense of perspective  by recognising that, no matter how important and challenging the work we do is, it is still just a job. We are all more than our professional identity and it is important we keep balance in what we do and sort out the work/life balance conundrum. This is important for our health and wellbeing and is also very important for those we lead. They will often model their behaviours on yours and we need to recognise we can only do what we can do and somethings may not get done. Prioritise and use all the above and your values to help you arrive at those priorities. Look at everything you do and ask yourself questions about whether there are better ways to work and if these ways are delivering what they are supposed to do in a sustainable way. We should aim for sustainability in all that we do. Reflect and critically engage in everything you do. Don't be afraid of making mistakes and acknowledge them when you do. Understand you don't have to have all the answers. Lead and don't wait for others to tell you what you should be doing. Read and engage with research to inform your practice and school development. Collaborate with colleagues and other schools. Finally, give yourself and those you lead time to not only develop and grow but also the important 'down' time to recharge batteries before you go again.

I am sure the year ahead will be as busy and exciting as ever. Approach it with confidence. Deal with what you can deal with and stop worrying about the things you have no control over. Try and stay mindful and in the present. Learn from the past and previous experiences and don't worry about what might or might not happen in the future. You can only deal with what is happening now, though you can plan and consider for the future,as this is part of the leader's role. Look after yourself, your staff and all your learners and enjoy the year.

#Blimage – Seating⤴

from

Photo - Steve Wheeler.

Photo – Steve Wheeler.

 

When I first saw this particular #blimage it struck a chord with me immediately. Seating arrangements! One of the things in teaching I’ve read up about and tried out lots of to get the best learning out of my class (and in my early years tried to improve behaviour with too).

 

What can seating look like in primary schools?

 

Well those desks suggest the old style of rows to me. The type of thing that was actually being phased out when I went through primary schools in the 1980s. I’m not sure of the benefit of rows. If you were partnered (as our desks were double desks) with the ‘wrong person’ it made school life miserable. (My step-daughter who is a hard-working girl who isn’t easily distracted and tries her best ‘won’ the seat next to the class ‘naughty’ boy who was very talkative. She was sat there for a couple of terms…say it quickly it doesn’t sound a lot does it. Two block of 8 weeks maybe. 80 days then. 6 hours a day. 560 hours of school. With no planned benefits to her, only unhappiness because she’s not sat with the rest of her group). So maybe that seating wasn’t of the 70s and 80s? I’ve seen it used in classes in schools I’ve taught in. I assume (though never asked) to stop off task interactions.

 

A more traditional seating arrangement in primary school is the ‘table’ of around 6 children. Why do we do this? To create group interactions? Because it what primary classrooms look like – (thanks to SMT who’ve shared that gem in the past)? So that we can engineer groupings to ‘settle’ the behaviours of some children? In the early stage of my teaching life I used table groups and changed them regularly, twice a year (or moved ‘individuals’ around as a behaviour measure). I dread to think.

 

In latter years (after working with Shirley Clarke in Gateshead) I used tables of 6 children and changed them every Monday using lollipop sticks. The purpose behind this being to get the children interacting with as many different children in the class as possible. Finding out the skills and positive features that people they had never worked with had, as well as developing their own skills, through sharing their ideas and supporting each other in group work. It worked really well, and some of the feedback from the children about things they found out about each other was amazing. Of course if this happens you can’t have table points, table captains, table winners or table losers, you will need children to be self-motivated and working hard for themselves and not for external reward.

 

For the best part of a year I put all my tables together to form one large table in the classroom and mixed up the children weekly again using lollipop sticks. I did this after reading a book about how Apple and Google create spaces for ‘chance’ interactions. The class enjoyed working in this way and again reported that working with different people made for exciting learning time and exciting school time. (Behaviour, to my observation, was no worse using a ‘random’ approach to tables and seating than having ‘planned’ seating).

 

This coming year I am going for a horseshoe in my classroom with seating positions again changed weekly by random means. As well as the horseshoe, I have a table of 4 in the middle and a table for 8 for group teaching purposes. I will encourage the children to move furniture around for different tasks as they feel it suits their learning.

However, before all of this happens I will spend time in the first couple of weeks setting up the reasons behind our seating arrangements and setting up ground rules as well as discussing growth mindsets and key aspect of formative assessment. You can find loads of reading and resources about developing a growth mindset in the classroom all over the internet, and I have collected a few of the articles I have found useful here.

 

I’d be delighted to hear any of your ideas, arrangements etc in the comments.

 

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We’re on our way – Staffordshire Primary Languages conference: 26th June 2015⤴

from @ ¡Vámonos!

keep-calm-we-re-on-our-way-10On Friday 26th June I attended the Entrust Primary Languages Conference in Stafford, organised and led by Lorna Harvey. Entitled ‘We’re on our way’, the day began with an excellent keynote from Clare Seccombe aka @valleseco and genius behind LightBulbLanguages.

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Sharing a title with the conference, Clare shared her ideas on the journeys involved in primary language learning – for the child, the teacher and as a nation. I love how Clare can express her ideas so well in images. I’ve tried to capture some of them in my sketch note below.

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You can read Clare’s presentation for yourself here – We’re on our way!

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There were a number of workshops during the day – I attended one on a cluster of schools who use a ‘language investigators’ approach to language learning in Y1-2 and 3-4 before focussing on one language in Y6. My sketch note is below along with a few images.

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IMG_4687Plan for Y1-2 IMG_4688I loved the pizza/paella Italian/Spanish numbers!
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The day was very much a celebration of a project between Stafford and Burgundy, and I’d been asked to speak after lunch about a similar partnership in which I’d been involved, between Birmingham and Barcelona. It was wonderful to prepare my presentation as it sparked so many amazing memories and caused me to reflect on where we’ve gone since the (official) end of the partnership. Below you can see my presentation (although without the video clips I’m afraid) and Clare kindly sketch noted it for me.

We had a brilliant presentation from pupils about their experiences as well as a culinary lesson based on tasting and making mustard. Great fun and with clear language goals too!

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I finished the day by presenting about using technology to enhance language learning. You can see my presentation below and access the notes, tutorials etc here.

A great day – not much tweeting as I was too busy sketching or making mustard as was Clare, but here’s the Storify of the tweets anyway.

A great day – thanks Lorna!

PS Clare’s workshop – Be a crafty language teacher is explained here too!

The weakness of the network to nurture curiosity⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

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While search technology made the process of seeking the answers to our questions easier and quicker, social technology and our networks have had a paradoxical effort. Has the ease of 'asking' numbed our curiosity to investigate unknown knowns for ourselves?

There’s a strange paradox at work here. We live in an era where information is more freely available and easily accessible than ever before. Learning has, broadly speaking, evolved in three stages. First, knowledge resided in books or was held by experts. Students had to “knock” – to go looking – to find the answers. Then came Google, and with it students learned to “seek” because it was right there at their fingertips.

With the advent of Facebook and other social networks, we’ve entered the era of “ask”. Knowledge resides in the minds of the network, so students can just throw out a question on their Facebook page: “Hey guys, how would you answer this question that our professor set?”...

Students don’t read lengthy documents – like academic papers – any longer. They don’t go hunting for answers. They just put a question out to their network, sit back and wait for the answers to come their way.

Craig Blewitt. Thanks to Matt Esterman for the initial hat-tip to this.

It's not just our students who have become this Generation Ask - their teachers, in droves, sit on Twitter asking questions to the network, whose answers are waiting there to be found. The technology of our networks risks turning us into lazy researchers, for one.

But more worryingly, not doing our own homework, our own research, and relying instead on what others perceive to be 'right', means that we don't accidentally rub up against the interesting tangents that always come with one's own, personal, more time-consuming research.

The unknown unknowns remain untouched in this age of the network, and each individual's 'filter bubble' merely narrows down those chances further. The more our networks act as a magnifying glass on the loudest voices, the less likely we are to see the bigger picture, the whole context, and gain the depth of understanding we would ideally seek.

Pic by Kate Ter Haar

The weakness of the network to nurture curiosity⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

7071545621_1c0e40613d_z

While search technology made the process of seeking the answers to our questions easier and quicker, social technology and our networks have had a paradoxical effort. Has the ease of 'asking' numbed our curiosity to investigate unknown knowns for ourselves?

There’s a strange paradox at work here. We live in an era where information is more freely available and easily accessible than ever before. Learning has, broadly speaking, evolved in three stages. First, knowledge resided in books or was held by experts. Students had to “knock” – to go looking – to find the answers. Then came Google, and with it students learned to “seek” because it was right there at their fingertips.

With the advent of Facebook and other social networks, we’ve entered the era of “ask”. Knowledge resides in the minds of the network, so students can just throw out a question on their Facebook page: “Hey guys, how would you answer this question that our professor set?”...

Students don’t read lengthy documents – like academic papers – any longer. They don’t go hunting for answers. They just put a question out to their network, sit back and wait for the answers to come their way.

Craig Blewitt. Thanks to Matt Esterman for the initial hat-tip to this.

It's not just our students who have become this Generation Ask - their teachers, in droves, sit on Twitter asking questions to the network, whose answers are waiting there to be found. The technology of our networks risks turning us into lazy researchers, for one.

But more worryingly, not doing our own homework, our own research, and relying instead on what others perceive to be 'right', means that we don't accidentally rub up against the interesting tangents that always come with one's own, personal, more time-consuming research.

The unknown unknowns remain untouched in this age of the network, and each individual's 'filter bubble' merely narrows down those chances further. The more our networks act as a magnifying glass on the loudest voices, the less likely we are to see the bigger picture, the whole context, and gain the depth of understanding we would ideally seek.

Pic by Kate Ter Haar

eTwinning National Conference: 5th-7th June: NCTL #eTUK15⤴

from @ ¡Vámonos!

¡Más vale tarde que nunca!

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The first weekend of June saw the annual National eTwinning Conference take place at NCTL in Nottingham. Once more it was a weekend of learning, laughter and (can’t think of another L) celebrating the wonders of collaboration across boundaries.
IMG_4570I spoke once more about Twitter – Are you a Twit or a Tweep? You can see my presentation here –  twitter nottingham – if you’re interested! And there’s an eTwinning guidance document as well: TwitterGuidelines (thanks to Erszi for the photograph!)

During the weekend, I continued to sketch note the sessions.

Below are my sketch notes interspersed with pictures and comments on the sessions!

IMG_4529 Happy 10th birthday eTwinning! The cake was delicious too!
Dinner the first night in our regions – odd grouping but it meant that I got to chat with Helena. And special thanks to Kevin for being such an amazing sunshade when the setting sun got in our eyes ? IMG_4527
IMG_4555 Really brilliant to see – and hear – Ewan McIntosh once more. A very important person in my ‘learning journey’, both as a language teacher and an eTwinner. A very thought provoking presentation – I think I’m captured the main points in the sketch note but you can check out the NoTosh website for more details!
An important thought that I wanted to capture! IMG_4534
IMG_4556 Ewan’s workshop ‘Diving Deep into Learning’ introduced us to Guy Claxton’s 3Rs and 3Cs, and also to ‘The Squid.’ Too much to take in at once, especially as the very first session had overrun so the session was truncated, but the materials are accessible from the NoTosh site!
And then on to Action Jackson – The Power of Motivation.  Lots of the session was really common sense that isn’t often considered or applied, but it was an empowering and sometimes emotional session! Certainly believed I. Am. Amazing. IMG_4553

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IMG_4544 Coming back after lunch, Action Jackson did a short reprise – this slide sums up what he was saying.
And then onto the wonderful Sugata Mitra who presented via video link about the future of learning. Interesting ideas about the future of teaching and learning, particularly about the role of the teacher, and moving away from subject boxes. IMG_4552

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IMG_4551 Final session of the day was John Rolfe (standing in for Vicky Gough) and Joanna Speak talking about British Values and International Work. The conclusion they reached – and many of us concurred- was that British Values aren’t anything new, and actually are values that are held by many, not just the British! Great ideas and good to hear how Joanna’s link with Tabasco has developed.
Robin Hood and Maid Marion joined us for dinner!And Vikki Bruff was highly commended for her eTwinning project using Skype. IMG_4561
IMG_4568Lovely to see the LiPS girls, Erszi and Vikki – and Fatima too!
And good to see that selfies live on ?IMG_4567

You can find out more about the weekend here and via the Storify, photos here and more presentations from the weekend here .

News this week that the NCTL is being sold off so not sure where next year’s conference will be. I’ll miss my pre-dinner early evening break by the lake!

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Review: Other Cats to Whip, The Book of French Idioms⤴

from @ My Languages

I just love idioms, they are a part of everyday life and often give you a real insight into the target language culture. But how often do we think about their literal and intended meanings? For instance, why do the English say that they have “other fish to fry” rather than “have other things to do”? This is a great opportunity to look at how sentences are built and to practise translation for fun.
After moving from the UK to France in late 2012, author Graham Clark started to use native idioms and noticed that the French idioms were often very different to their English counterparts and, in many cases, even more bizarre!
Instead of having other fish to fry, the French have “other cats to whip” or “d’autres chats à fouetter”, to mean they have other things to do. In the introduction of the book, Graham issues a tongue-in-cheek warning whilst sharing his embarrassing misuse of this expression in a comical attempt to fit in with the locals.
Inspired by this story, Graham and his co-author Zubair Arshad, have carefully selected French idioms, each with a memorable illustration aiming as a reminder of the literal meaning of the phrase.
Each expression is provided with its literal English translation, actual meanings and example sentence, which makes it an interesting linguistic reference for students of all levels. The pictures and translations also make it an entertaining read for non-linguists who may have a connection with a French-speaking country.
My favourite expressions from the book include “Se croire sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter” to mean “To believe you came from Jupiter’s thigh (God’s Gift)”, “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” (Don’t panic), “Se faire prendre pour un pigeon” (To be taken for a ride) and also “Tomber dans les pommes”, meaning to “To fall in the apples (to faint)
Whatever your mood, whether you are feeling upbeat or have the blues (avoir le cafard= to have the cockroach), this lovely little book is guaranteed to make you smile…
The book is available on Kindle (£3.99) and Paperback (£4.99), on Amazon UK and Amazon US, which makes it a very affordable little gift for linguistically-minded friends.

Review: Other Cats to Whip, The Book of French Idioms⤴

from @ My Languages

I just love idioms, they are a part of everyday life and often give you a real insight into the target language culture. But how often do we think about their literal and intended meanings? For instance, why do the English say that they have “other fish to fry” rather than “have other things to do”? This is a great opportunity to look at how sentences are built and to practise translation for fun.
After moving from the UK to France in late 2012, author Graham Clark started to use native idioms and noticed that the French idioms were often very different to their English counterparts and, in many cases, even more bizarre!
Instead of having other fish to fry, the French have “other cats to whip” or “d’autres chats à fouetter”, to mean they have other things to do. In the introduction of the book, Graham issues a tongue-in-cheek warning whilst sharing his embarrassing misuse of this expression in a comical attempt to fit in with the locals.
Inspired by this story, Graham and his co-author Zubair Arshad, have carefully selected French idioms, each with a memorable illustration aiming as a reminder of the literal meaning of the phrase.
Each expression is provided with its literal English translation, actual meanings and example sentence, which makes it an interesting linguistic reference for students of all levels. The pictures and translations also make it an entertaining read for non-linguists who may have a connection with a French-speaking country.
My favourite expressions from the book include “Se croire sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter” to mean “To believe you came from Jupiter’s thigh (God’s Gift)”, “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” (Don’t panic), “Se faire prendre pour un pigeon” (To be taken for a ride) and also “Tomber dans les pommes”, meaning to “To fall in the apples (to faint)
Whatever your mood, whether you are feeling upbeat or have the blues (avoir le cafard= to have the cockroach), this lovely little book is guaranteed to make you smile…
The book is available on Kindle (£3.99) and Paperback (£4.99), on Amazon UK and Amazon US, which makes it a very affordable little gift for linguistically-minded friends.

UnderstandingModernGov conference – June 16th 2015⤴

from @ ¡Vámonos!

IMG_4621A little bit delayed by end of term madness…

On June 16th I travelled to London for a day long conference organised by UnderstandingModernGov on the subject of Primary Languages – “Successfully implement the new Primary Modern Foreign Languages curriculum”. It was great to see Janet, Sylvie, Nadine and Julie, and to meet all the delegates to spend a day exploring how we can effectively plan, manage and deliver languages to primary aged pupils.

My part of the day was all about using technology; you can see the presentation below, and you can also access links to tutorials etc here.

I sketch noted all the sessions as you can see below.

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Policy to practicality – Janet Lloyd

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Phonics and Literacy – Julie Prince

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Develop an innovative approach to Primary Language Teaching – Sylvie Barlett-Rawlings with Nadine Chadier


Additionally, you can see what Janet said on her blog.

And here’s the Storify of tweets from the day!