Countdown to Christmas

You can always tell it is a wonderfully busy time of year when I haven’t had the opportunity to keep up with my blogging!

We have had a fantastic festive season so far and with just under two weeks left of this magical term, there is still so much to look forward to with amazing Christmas performances, our school Christingle service, Christmas lunches, parties and Carols around the tree.

Here are the children from Clover and Sunflower Class performing superbly in their dress rehearsal this afternoon…

I must begin  with an enormous thank you to our fantastic Friends of Westwood School who, in the last week alone, have organised two super Christmas events. Our Christmas Fair raised an enormous £1300 and with the perfect start to the festive season, the school was adorned with everything Christmas and plenty of cheer to get us in the mood. The introduction of the Christmas Cafe certainly went down well and the variety of stalls, games and activities around the school made for a wonderful afternoon.  I cannot thank you enough for supporting this event which, once again, had such a lovely community atmosphere and sense of occasion in the run up to Christmas. These funds will go towards making school an even better place to be for every child within our school. Christmas stories at bedtime was a calm and thoroughly enjoyable occasion with so many of our children returning in their pyjamas to listen to stories and enjoy some hot chocolate and biscuits together, kindly donated by Sainsbury’s. It was so lovely to share this event with them and I hope that we continue it again next year as it genuinely is one of the highlights of my year.

We have also been lucky enough to have the Jacolly Puppet theatre perform for us. Their performance of Dogworthy’s Magic Christmas Show had us all enthralled and mesmorised, but full of humour and fun. I always think that this is the perfect way to begin our Christsmas celebrations in school. Thank you to Jac and Holly for a magical afternoon. Also a big thank you to our FoWs for funding this lovely event.

Here are a few photos from a truly special afternoon at the theatre:

So with very little time left of this term,  I do hope that I will see as many of you as possible at our Carols around the Tree assembly on Thursday 20th December at 1.30pm. This will be immediately followed by Tea and Mince Pies with the Head in the meadow to round off a successful and extremely enjoyable term. I do hope that you will be able to join me for a festive chat before we all head off to celebrate with our families and have a well earned rest over Christmas.

Teaching children about social media safely

At the recent Parent Online Safety Meeting I held, I discussed a new app and tool that I was excited to use called GoBubble. Set up for under 13 year olds, this is a brilliantly innovative concept that allows children to learn about the use of social media and digital citizenship in a completely safe environment where all users are uploaded and validated by their school and where all content is moderated by the GoBubble team. This avoids any inappropriate content or contact for our children and allows them to enjoy the use of this app without the worry of anything unkind or unpleasant coming back.

Essentially it is social media for children, with a simple and easy to use interface where classes can get involved in class chat, discussion and learning through posts, or bubbles. Today I had the most wonderful afternoon as, after quickly setting everyone up prior to the lesson, we were able to jump straight in and group chat, just within ourselves, share photos, ideas and generally have a really productive and fun time, but with the underlying message of think before you post. This was something the children took on board right away and we had a super discussion about the potential risks of traditional social media, which requires the user to be 13 or over to create an account.

Within GoBubble we even collaborated internationally with some new friends from schools in the USA and Canada, as the platform seamlessly allows interaction between classes and today we joined the #gratitudechat, sharing what we were all grateful for in our lives, with some lovely responses.

I think the measure of how successful something is often comes from the feedback of the children. Today they were buzzing, excited and keen to try it at home. I will be sending a letter home to explain how this can be achieved outside of school hours soon.

Here are some photos of today’s fun and the children, in their own words, describing what they think of GoBubble.

Blogging with David Mitchell

On a day when blogging has been used so well to inspire and excite our writers (and also the staff), it only seems fitting that I should write a post this evening.

This afternoon we were delighted to welcome back David Mitchell (@deputymitchell, for the Tweeters!), blogging expert and experienced educational consultant, who started us off on our blogging journey 4 years ago. David spent the afternoon working with the children in Lotus and Orchid class to develop their writing using live sentence construction on class blogs, which he then gave immediate feedback to, thus improving and progressing the learning within a very short space of time indeed. What made it even more exciting was that everything that was being written could be seen by the entire world! Although the activity is no longer live, the fantastic evidence of great learning can be seen on lotus.westwoodblogs.org and orchid.westwoodblogs.org.

Our children are prolific bloggers and produce high quality posts each week, but this afternoon was an opportunity to take this even further and with David leading the sessions it made for a fun packed and hugely productive afternoon. Every child was completely engaged and immersed in their writing and the results made us all very proud indeed, as did the children’s superb approach to their learning.

After school it was then the turn of the staff to be inspired by David’s enthusiasm and knowledge as he took us through the process of using CoveritLive to curate a high quality writing session, as well as other tools that we can all take away to enhance our lessons and utilise blogging as a tool for writing. My huge thanks to David for a fabulous afternoon and for setting up the next stage of our blogging journey, which has us all keen to share even more of our learning with the world.

Here are some photos of the afternoon, as well as the children explaining how they have enjoyed the experience and the impact it had on their writing.

Westwood School Recording Stars!

Today was another exceptionally fun and special day as we all joined together to record a special CD of our favourite songs that we sing in assembly through the year.

Once again we welcomed back Jules from 4Part Music Ltd, who recorded our last CD 4 years ago, would you believe? We really enjoyed working with Jules last time and today was another wonderful experience for everyone as the hall was transformed into a recording studio for the day as he set up his fantastic mobile equipment to capture the children in full voice. With such a professional outfit, everyone was VERY excited from the outset and worked hard to sing each song as well as they could, but most importantly, with enthusiasm and enjoyment.

By break time we had already recorded 9 songs, each of them sounding beautiful and a super representation of the children’s love of singing that I get to hear every day. This time, of course, they were captured for everyone to hear, forever…

With a diverse and seasonal playlist that can be enjoyed throughout the year, the children were just brilliant, recording most of the songs successfully on the first take and we even had time to squeeze in a staff song before lunch, watched by an audience of 100 children, all of whom resisted the temptation to giggle. Well done everyone!

Of course, each class recorded their own song too and I am immensely proud of everyone, that at the end of the day we have a CD that we can all enjoy for a very long time and is a lasting memory of this year at our school. My huge thanks to Jules for his professionalism and organisation in making our day such fun and a real experience. Also to our fabulous staff for joining in with the song and adding our little bit of voice to a whole school collaboration. but to the children I must say a massive well done and thank you. Today was a complete privilege for me and another example of why I love my job.

Jules has kindly mixed a sample of some of the songs that you can listen to below. I also caught up with some children to ask them what they enjoyed about the day and you can read Jules’ blog post from his visit to our school HERE, too.

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Westwood Radio at Wiltshire Heights

Once again our fabulous team of broadcasters were delighted to be invited back to present a live outside broadcast from the dining room at Wiltshire Heights residential care home in Bradford on Avon.

With the usual mix of top stories, engaging scripts and great music to entertain the residents, our team were on top form and made the afternoon so enjoyable for everyone. We were also thrilled to be able to talk to some of the residents about their memories of childhood; a perfect focus for the show as we happened to be there on Children in Need day.

Our huge thanks to Julie and the activities team for making us so welcome once again, we always love coming to see you all. You can listen to the show again here and also enjoy some of the photos we took of our latest outside broadcast.

Clover Class on Westwood Radio

This week Clover class had the opportunity to put together their own radio show and to broadcast live on Westwood Radio and what a show they presented!

With outstanding script writing, huge amounts of confidence and a really lovely way to reflect on their ‘We are what we eat topic’, everyone worked so hard and it was a joy to watch everyone working together. Thank you to everyone who listened and sent us texts. Here are some photos of our fabulous afternoon and a chance to listen again to the show

Today, the Five Sentence Challenge inspires…

Today I had the pleasure of listening to some children in Sunflower Class read their five sentence challenge writing for me. Using a wonderful picture prompt on fivesc.net, the idea is that the children look closely at the picture and write five detailed and interesting sentences based on what they see. This is great for developing writing confidence, engagement and, above all, enjoyment of writing. Once again, I took the opportunity to record this super learning and you can listen to the children perform their writing below.

Also, just this evening, we have been gifted this inspiring ‘toon’ by artist Terry Culkin who has been impressed by the children’s writing and their ability to perform it so well. Thank you Terry!

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