N: Note Taking

Note taking: the art form of cutting down the information in individual chapters and highlighting the important bits for use later on. Notes are often taken during lectures, meetings or when reading chapters of large information.

My note taking has changed and varied a lot over the years in school. But I now know how I best learn and having the right kind of notes for my learning style is key. I need colour, I need brightness and highlighted areas. I usually start by reading the chapter all the way through highlighting in the book the areas I think are important or likely to come up in the exam. I then move on to writing out in my own words the important highlighted areas on a few A4 sheets. I then go back over those sheets rewriting them in different colours and cutting it down more and more. Until one chapter in the book is now just one A4 sheet.

From there I tend to go with Mind-Mapping to again narrow down the information to just a few key words and phrases and images. Again I need the bright colours for it to all stand out in my head and the clever little images usually help me to remember the order I want to work in. Whole essays have been written using just a single mind-map. I'm not sure I would have made it through UCC or Hibernia without my mind maps.

I've taught mind-mapping skills in learning support as well as in the mainstream class and it's always worked well. It's quite a popular idea with the pupils as well the parents. It's something fun and keeps the pupils thinking and busy linking ideas and thoughts. Including the artistic elements of drawing little images helps too I think. Parents realise mind-mapping is a life skill I think and know it will stand to them in the future especially at second level, where the essays mount up and planning them in a mind-map is so much easier and really saves time.

Course there are other ways to take notes other then the Hellie Way. I'm not saying they're wrong but you know my way is best (in my opinion) and I'm naturally going to suggest you all try that! Hehehe anyone who knows me knows I firmly believe and push you to find your own way to learn and take notes. This is just my way, the way that works best for me. How I Learn includes so many other ways to think about note taking and learning that I do recommend you have a look through it! Of course I do, How I Learn is my baby!

M: Music and Maths

Maths: A funny thing with numbers where you spend most of your time looking for X (and ex is an ex for a reasons mathematicians, leave well enough alone!)

Music: That awful racket your dad is always moaning about, a collection of noises put together to create musical masterpieces like as Bohemian Rhapsody from Queen.

Music and Maths have a lot in common despite what our pupils might think.

They both start with the letter M.

They are both special languages that use symbols to communicate ideas. Music doesn't work without maths, it incorporates many mathematical patterns and notions. Musical chords needs maths, timing and structure or maths maths maths and more maths. Generating specific notes depends on maths and the mathematic relationships between sound waves, pitch and frequency. I've come across some people who use Music to understand maths and I'm sure there's others who need maths to understand music. There's so much in common it's not surprising really.

Source Maths and Music
Of course our pupils don't believe us when we try to tell them that. They see maths as a boring subject they're forced to do in school with far too many numbers and symbols. Compared to music, a subject that many pupils see as a bit of a doss, something fun that doesn't involve a lot of work. It's all singing right? Never mind music comprehension, or responding to music. Most of what we do is just singing. Pupils don't often get chance to experience musical instruments other then the tin whistle or recorder. Unless parents get them lessons outside of school. I firmly believe they're missing out on so much.

And then there's maths which really can be fun. Yes I said that. I didn't really love maths in secondary school but in primary I really did love it. It was fun and practical, well to the nerdy me anyway! It still can be if we take away the obsessive need we as educators have to do the chapters in the book. Some of the best and most enjoyable lessons I've ever taught have been really practical every day maths. Where the chapter isn't important, it just has a total pick and mix feel to it. Every day real life maths doesn't fall into chapters, it's practical, hands on and relevant not some numbers that Busy at Maths tell us to add up! One of my all time favourite Maths lessons was a Maths Trail I put together for a 5th class many moons ago, the class loved it and it got us outta the classroom for a while, which is great fun for teachers and student alike! If you're interested in a copy of it please email me on anseoblog@gmail.com

I follow @pamelaaobrien who is a mathematical whizz, you should give her a follow on Twitter. Pam and I both share an interest in ICT in the classroom, and technology is nothing without maths! Programming and coding just don't happen without maths. But I think I'll keep that train of thought for another day!

L: Libraries

A library: a magical place you enter in this world in order to travel to another. Somewhat like the TARDIS but without the funny whooshing noise.

Growing up the local library was one of my favourite places to visit, we went every Saturday morning because I read too much (usually had my books read by Monday or Tuesday) so we had to go back often! I loved reading as a child, I had a little torch hidden beside my bed so when my parents turned all the lights off so I'd sleep I could keep reading under the covers! I hated putting books down, I still do and will generally read til I actually fall asleep with book in hand!

The library was a place of magic, the place where I met some of my closest friends, characters such as Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables, The Swallows and Amazons, Beatrix Potter, The Famous Five, Astrix to name but a few. I kept rereading the same books, like a comfort blanket, I love knowing what happens in the end but always feel like I miss things on the first reading so I like to go reread them and catch the little clues to the story and the ideas, concepts and details I may have missed. And I haven't changed a bit! I still reread the same books! Only now I've added Harry Potter into the mix.

But there is so much more to the library now then just that. The local library is a fountain of knowledge from books, internet access, DVDs and CDs, Audiobooks, and of course the wonderful librarians! Can't have a library without them! If you want to check out a really and truly brilliant librarian I suggest you follow @MariaMernagh and my favourite Bee @SummerBuzz for exciting and fun ways to keep the kids reading! If I'm honest Summer Buzz is one of my favourite accounts on Twitter and it's a fantastic idea from South County Dublin Libraries.

New Ballyroan LIbrary, South County Dublin
Last year I was invited up to Tallaght and Ballyroan Library for Science Week during which we made a lovely mess and made rockets, boats and hovercrafts! But my point is that the library offers such workshops to local schools, you should keep an eye out for up coming events. 

A library is something I feel to be vital in every school and classroom if possible. A selection of books that can be read when finished work early or DEAR (drop everything and read). Books are something I firmly believe that every child has a right to enjoy and be transported to a new world, to meet new friends and learn new ideas. And lets face it reading for pleasure is a key way to improve literacy and spelling. I wrote previously about my ideal fantasy library in my classroom which you can read here. For me a key part of that is the variety of books, I don't mind what books or comics or graphic novels are there once the kids are happy to read them! But I do think a comfy cosy reading corner is a must, I hate sitting at a desk reading with a hard chair and no creature comforts. I'd rather curl up on a beanbag or a pile of cushions and be as snug as a bug in a rug. And I think the pupils in my class would too!

I've a trip to my local library planned for this week to get a book for my new book club, very excited!!

K: Kindergarten

Kindergarten: a german word which literally means the childrens garden. No it's not for planting children in and hoping they grow, if that was the case I have gone myself and be a foot taller by now.

Kindergarten is essentially a playschool where children learn through play and song, a pre school education. Frobel developed many aspects of the kindergarten approach so it's not surprising that play and fun are at the heart of it. There are many types of preschool available from a creche to playschool to montessori.

As a teacher and educator I'm a firm believer that preschool education is hugely important for many reasons. The social elements are vital, especially for the eldest child in the family or an only child who may not previously have much experience of playing and getting along with their peers who will be in their class in junior infants. Learning to share, not fighting over toys and working together is a skill set that can be harder to nurture when in a home full of adults or even in a house where the younger sibling is too young to "play" just yet. The social development of preschoolers is key to Kindergarten, even when the child in question has siblings and someone to play with at home it's important for younger children to get used to having non family members around them and learning to get along with kids they're not related to. While having cousins to play with helps in still in my opinion a huge help to be social with others! Again my disclaimer, I'm not a parent, I'm talking/writing here from a teachers point of view and what I can see when in the infants classroom.

One of the key preschools in Ireland is the Early Start-which currently has 40 centres across the country one of which is in my old primary school. The Early Start wasn't there when I was starting out in school though. Though from the time I've spent in there it's a wonderful place where the younger pupils learn through inquiry, having fun and not really realising how much they're learning as well as through active learning. Music and song seem to be a key part of this, learning numbers letters in such a way that makes them easier to remember as well as having really fun dance moves and actions. Early Start is available in DEIS areas.

The Naíonra which is a Irish speaking preschool is another key preschool in my opinion. Staff here generally speak Gaeilge to the pupils all day ensuring they learn both languages at a young age. Children learn languages better at younger ages so it's important to me anyway that they're given the option to soak up as much Gaeilge as possible. The Naíonra aims to encourage development in the child phsyically, intellectually, aesthetically, socially, emotionally and linguistically. This holistic approach is met through the medium of play which as you've gathered by now I'm a huge fan of!

Montessori is another option, developed by Italian woman Maria Montessori. The emphasis is on independence, freedom within limits and respect for all areas of the childs development including physical, social and phycological. Montessori schools have a wider age range of pupils generally often seeing kids as young as two and half in attendance. The toys in a montessori from my own experience of it (transition year work experience in school and research for a college project) tend to have a more pronounced learning element built in and while they're fun they are a little more obvious about the education values. Again though I'm no expert and am open to any and all comment.

At some stage in the future I'm sure I'll be faced with the option of where to send the mini Hellie's to preschool and while I haven't yet decided where I'll be by then I know what elements I consider to be important and right now the Gaeilge element is hugely important to me. A naíonra may be just what I'll want for the mini me but that's a long way off!

J: Jobs of the Future

What can we do to prepare our students for the jobs of the future?? Let's face it there's going to be jobs over the next few months, years and decades that don't even exist yet. If we're honest we have a fair few professions that didn't exist a few years ago so we should have the sense to know that our jobs will keep evolving. It wasn't that long ago that a social media guru/expert or manager was unheard of yet most companies now see the need to have someone in charge of their online image and utilise the social media element of business.

So how can we prepare our students for jobs that we can't even imagine yet? How we set in motion the skill set needed for a profession that we can't comprehend yet, a career that as of yet isn't even really there. I'm not talking about a Doctor, a Doctor will always be a Doctor even though the medicine might change. But our parents never considered the need for a language support teacher when in school as everyone spoke English as their first language, look how that changed? How do we prepare for changes when we don't even know what to expect?

Embrace technology. With every step forward we take in the IT world we need to learn to use it, didn't we do that with Social Media? Some of us embraced Twitter and Facebook and now social media managers exist in the world. So we embrace every new technology no matter how daft it may seem to us at the time, the chances are it will enhance our learning, teaching and eventually become part of the norm. How many of us (of a certain age) said computers would never take off, or mobile phones or even smart phones? Technology isn't bad, it's not scary it's just new. And new generally has been a good thing for us.

Be brave. Don't hide from changes. Run to them, embrace them. Learn with our students, they are a generation of techie kids and they're not afraid of it. Let their enthusiasm lead you. Learn together. Learn from each other. Ask for help if you need it. Here's where I again suggest you join the CESI mailing list for all your techie questions.

Future, here we come. 
CPD. The be all and end of of our professional developments. Don't shy away from it. Don't do it just because you get those days off during the year. Do it for your own learning. Do it to improve your classroom. Do it because you don't know yet what may come and how it may help your students in the future with their future jobs.

Creative pupils. It's not just the techie stuff that needs to be embraced, we also need to embrace the creative sides of our classes too. Some of our more traditional arts are coming back into play now such as knitting and sewing and cooking from scratch. We need to remember our own skills and pass them on as well. Creativity is going to be key, without creativity how do we expect to develop anything in the future? Nurture creativity in your classroom, in your school, in your household, in your life.

Allow for active and inquiry based learning. Child centred discovery allows for much more learning and possibly even the discovery of something new. Look at the amount of young students who are coding and programming apps because they learnt to do so through their own discovery. Independent learning comes into play here too. Learning because of interest may well lead to a whole new discovery and even a future career.

So I guess what I'm saying is that we need to embrace and face full on the possibility of new and strange jobs in the future and do all we can do now to prepare our classes for things we haven't even dreamed of yet.

Sound challenging? Yes but it's going to be fun!