Recipe for Play Dough


I’ve been feeling anxious about the first day back. Having already laminated pretty much everything in my classroom I decided to try my hand at making a mainstay from my childhood: play dough. No, not the funny smelling stuff in the little plastic pots. Play dough like my mum made it, except she baked hers but this recipe is a little less committed for those who want a quick fix . Try it out!

Play dough

1 cups plain flour

1/2 cup of salt

2 tablespoons of cream of tartar

1 tablespoons of cooking oil

Food colouring

1 cup of boiling water

Top tip: Add a scented oil to make it smell a little fresher, I used orange oil but be adventurous!


Teaching Unions: make the most of free and discounted memberships before you commit

It’s really important that you join a union before you start in the classroom. This means you’ll have access to advice and support should something go wrong, opportunities for professional development and a voice in educational policy. Obviously, there are lots of things you’ll need to consider when choosing: cost, benefits and politics. However, as a student member most unions offer either free or heavily discounted membership, so it’s worth joining up to a few, or even all of them, before making a final decision.

To help you out I have put handy links to each union’s student membership pages, as well as a brief summary of joining benefits. I have also included Edapt, which is a relatively new union alternative. This list is in no particular order, I’ve joined them all!

National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)

Joining benefits:

Free membership to the end of the calendar year in which you qualify.

Free publications.

Sponsored lectures for final year students.

Edapt (union alternative)

Joining benefits:

Subscription is from just £10 per month, with reductions for students, NQTs and Teach First teachers starting from £10 per year.

By referring others you’ll also reduce your payments by up to 20% per year.

National Union of Teachers (NUT)

Joining benefits:

Free membership to the end of the calendar year in which you qualify.

Membership includes a countdown discount card which you can use to secure discounts in a large number of services and products.

Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)

Joining benefits:

NQ/probationer members can benefit from the following subscriptions offer:

Free membership to the end of the calendar year in which you qualify.

Free membership for the whole of the following calendar year, if you agree to pay your future membership subscriptions by direct debit.

1/2 price membership for the subsequent year.

£150 worth of teaching materials and publications.

Cashback scheme.


Joining benefits:

Free student membership and full membership during your first term as a newly qualified teacher.

Discounted rates after qualification.

Access to discounts from leading service suppliers.

Some Helpful Resources Recommended by the Experts

Over my time at the Summer Institute I scribbled down lots of online resources and I thought it might be useful to try them out and share them with you. Hopefully this will prove handy for the next generation of Teach First participants, who will be completing SKA action plans in the coming months. Please do share and I’ll try and add to this list over the coming weeks, as I’ve only made it through Science, Maths, Dyslexia and online resources. Also if you have any favourites you’d like to add let me know.

I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Paul Broadbent, Joe Ambrose, Hannah Tuffnell and all the other tutors and associate tutors who shared their favourite resources with us.


(Science and Plants for Schools) Lots of resources and suggestions for investigations.

(The National Stem Centre) An amazing eLibrary for teaching resources in STEM subject areas and programmes of work to support career advice.

(Planet Science) I love this really interactive website packed with resources from making a kite to catching a pigeon!

(Kew Royal Botanical Gardens) Kew is a fantastic place to visit if you are teaching in London. The website also has a great bank of resources and information about CPD opportunities and courses.

(Primary Science Teaching Trust) Lots of resources, CPD information and a great list of useful links.

(Nuffield Foundation) Lots of useful resources and some great research.


(Dyslexia Action) Lots of information on dyslexia and the support available.

(RNIB and Dyslexia Action) Learning resources in downloadable, accessible formats for students who have difficulty reading standard printed books.

(British Dyslexia Association) Lots of helpful guidance on how to make your school dyslexia friendly (quality mark and accreditation).

(The Dyslexia SPLD Trust) Lots of guidance on best practice and great resources.


(Paul Broadbent) Some great resources.

Online Resources

These were shared by the wonderful Hannah Tuffnell and Joe Ambrose in their associate tutor workshop on interactive technologies at SI 2013.

(Prezi) A very engaging Powerpoint alternative. Just try it and see!

(Powtoon) Allows you to create animated videos and cartoons of up to five minutes.

(Padlet) An online noticeboard. It’s great for collecting feedback and works in real time.

(Edmodo) An educational social networking site. It’s teacher controlled, meaning the children can experience the fun of engaging online in a safe environment.

(Google Forms) Allows you to create questionnaires and surveys, which can then be transferred into Excel for fast and effective data analysis.

(Poll Everywhere) The children can text their responses to a question, which you can then download. To be used with carefully!

WA4s, Impact Conference and Intercohort Work

Today started nice and early with some brief preparation for meeting our 2012 colleagues, who arrived on campus last night. This was a rather amusing session in which we were asked to think about how they might be feeling and what we could learn from them. Tired and a lot were the obvious answers.

Then it was time to run back across campus to watch our (mostly) older and definitely wiser peers present their final presentations (WA4). This has been one of my favourite events so far, as it gave us a real insight into a lot of classrooms, as well as real examples of how teachers overcome challenges. I’m also going to take this opportunity to remind future me that the best presentations today were interactive, included personal anecdotes backed it up with evidence and were delivered with a smile.

After WA4s we had to dash across campus again to the opening ceremony of the Impact Conference. This was a fantastic event, punctuated by a magnificent thunder storm and buckets of rain. I was particularly impressed at how an extremely confident Yr. 5 pupil, Amelia, managed to hold the attention of 2500 slightly damp participants. Speeches were also given by Sam Butterfield, this year’s Participant President, who gave some words of wisdom on great leadership and Camilla Batmanghelidjh, who asked us to: ‘Notice the child that has been left behind and be exceptional – be the change in that child’s life’.


In the afternoon, after battling through a hail shower, I attended two sessions:

The Sage Club

This workshop helped us to rethink our notions of ‘Gifted and Talented’ and to consider how we can support the learning of high achieving pupils. We looked at some real case studies and thought about practical ways to ensure that children with exceptional capabilities reached their full potential.

Raising Literacy Levels for Low Achievers

This workshop focused on some of the reasons why children don’t achieve their full potential in literacy and addressed some common misconceptions. Many participants shared their own experiences in the classroom and we talked lots about how we can support pupils with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, in their learning.

In the afternoon it was time for our first intercohort session. This week we will be working with a 2012 participant who will mentor small groups of 2013s in planning and giving a short presentation on a unit of work. Today we met our groups, chose a topic focus and drew up a medium-term plan. More on this later in the week…

Week 1 at Warwick: a reflection journal entry

Read the time table. Drawing on this and also reflecting on your time spent in London consider how your diet has changed since joining the Teach First Programme.

Since joining the Teach First Programme I have developed a greater understanding of my dietary needs. In London, I was surprised to see how my penchant for Pret A Manger sandwiches had a negative impact on my waistline. This is something that I have worked hard to address in Warwick by making sure I am always first in line at meal times so that I am able to get to the fruit salad before it is gone and only taking one dessert, despite the many options available.

As breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I have challenged myself to eat a cooked breakfast each day for the duration of my time in Warwick. This has given me the necessary energy to carry out each activity with vitality and enthusiasm.

I relish every chance to attend a BBQ and have enjoyed the social opportunities afforded by these events.


To run the Teach First 10K in September.

Next steps:

I have been swimming once this week and managed to do 10 lengths. By the end of the week I hope to have swum 20 lengths in total. This will help to improve my fitness in the lead up to the 10K.

Planning your First Trip

This morning Teach First shipped two buses of primary participants out of the Warwick campus to Coombe Park; you can imagine the excitement!

The day started with a quick introduction (and a brief shower of rain) but before we knew it the sun was out and we were off to start our activities. Here are some of the things we got up to:

Animal Adaptations

Through the medium of dressing up we considered why animals have certain physical features. We then created our own imaginary creatures, detailing their adaptations and eventually creating a physical interpretation of that animal. Much hilarity ensued as 20 teachers wriggled their way into some very interesting animal shapes.

Pond Dipping


This was a fantastic activity for all key stages! With nets, magnifying equipment and identification charts we got to know more about pond-life. This was also an important moment to discuss how to do a risk assessment, given a lot of potential hazards, including: deep water, excitable adults and vicious swans!

Camp Fire Activities


After listening to the story of The Three Little Pigs we were given the challenge to design and execute a safe home for the pigs using forest twigs.


Thanks to us the three little pigs will sleep safely tonight.


The session also included making mini-beast sculptures out of natural materials, finding textures in the forest, making rubbings and marshmallow toasting. We rounded off the activity with some good old reflection. When we had finished we wrote our evaluations onto paper leaves, which we tied to the trees with string.

Mini-beast Hunt

We scoured the forest for signs of bio-diversity, collecting some of our specimens in magnifying pots. We had a surprising amount of success, finding: a frog, a mouse, snails, centipedes, millipedes, beetles, woodlice, worms and spiders.

The Meadow Challenge


Having experienced some excellent sessions we were challenged to plan our own activity using the meadow and a selection of resources. Having wandered through the sea of beautiful flowers, grasses, butterflies and dragonflies I was inspired to plan a creative activity. I took pieces of different coloured wool into the field with me and made a colour matching collage on a piece of card with a double-sided sticky tape panel. I’m really inspired to do this activity with my future class in the playground next year!


We even got an ice-cream at the end of the day. What a great way to remind us how important new experiences are in primary education.

Literacy Conference

Today the world waits for the birth of a baby that will be in the spotlight from the moment that it is born but here in Warwick we were thinking about the children who aren’t. Today the 1260 participants came together with a wide range of literacy practitioners to get thinking about how childhood literacy can transform lives.

The conference kicked off with a thought-provoking speech from Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, who highlighted some of the key themes of the day and spoke about the profound impact illiteracy can have on a person’s life outcomes.

Here is a brief account of the sessions which I attended:

Can Read, Do Read

Ruth Broadhead from Ruth Miskin Training led this fantastic session on how to narrow the gap in childhood literacy through effective phonics teaching. Ruth highlighted how phonics could be used to target pupils with different strengths and weaknesses and also did some fantastic modelling. Phonics is often seen as a prescriptive teaching strategy, however, Ruth demonstrated how to inject life into phonics teaching and strategies to make sure every child gets what they need from their phonics programme.

Talk for Writing

Pie Corbett created quite a buzz around campus this morning and this session certainly didn’t disappoint. In just over an hour Pie whizzed us through some fantastic teaching strategies and highlighted the amazing results that talk focused learning can have. It was also a chance to get up on our feet and do some storytelling! If you’re feeling inspired, have a go yourself:

Dyslexia Friendly (Primary)

This session delivered by Dr. Kate Saunders of the British Dyslexia Association helped participants to address some common misconceptions about dyslexia. A range of strategies to support the teaching of dyslexia were shared.

The conference closed with some more fascinating reflections on literacy teaching from Pi Corbett, Greg Wallace (Best Start Federation) and children’s author Lou Kuenzler. I’m really excited to put some of the learning strategies I’ve learned about today into practice.

Last Day at the London Summer Institute and First Day at Warwick

Friday was the closing ceremony for the London part of the Summer Institute and as I watched the proceedings a lot was going around in my mind. When I sat in the lecture hall at the IOE for the opening ceremony it seemed like an eternity before we’d be heading to Warwick. Now, as we start the next chapter of Summer Institute, so many things have changed.  I’ve learned so much from my tutors and time in school, I’ve made some amazing friends and above all I feel a real part of the teaching community. Seeing the London cohort together again really put in perspective to me just how close we’ve all become in just four weeks.

Now everyone has arrived in Warwick and our community has grown bigger. It’s great to see how quickly everyone has settled into the rhythm of Warwick life and there was such an exciting atmosphere last night as everyone came together for the first time. In half an hour we will attend the opening ceremony for the whole 2013 cohort, I’m delighted to be part of such an energetic and welcoming community and I can’t wait to hear more about the next couple of weeks!

Teach First Glossary Continued

This week it has been very hard to find time to post. One of the trickiest things about the Summer Institute is making time to fit in everything that needs doing around placements and classes. My to do list features: reflective journal entries, peer reviews, WA1, resource making, deciding which union to join, applying for a student Oyster card, doing some washing, eating, sleeping etc. It’s probably time for another glossary to explain what these things are:

Reflective Journal

Each week, from Summer Institute through to the end of the PGCE, participants are given 3-4 reflective questions to respond to. These will usually relate to experiences we’ve had that week, as well as self-assessment tasks, which help us to consider how we are developing against the list of Teach First competencies and Teaching Standards. The participant then draws up a list of 3 areas for immediate development. The journal is reviewed and signed by our mentors each week.

Home Group

London participants are divided into groups for their Institute of Education training sessions. This is usually by specialism, subject or region within London.

Peer Reviews

As well as being read by an IOE tutor, PPW is read and reviewed by a member of your home group at Summer Institute.


Our first written assignment for the PGCE. This year’s topic is an investigation into school and community.

Placement School

The school in which participants are placed for the two year Leadership Development programme. We spend 4 induction days in our school during the Summer Institute.

Partnership Schools

In weeks 2 and 3 we are sent into partnership schools to observe good teaching practice. We also have the opportunity to develop our planning skills and deliver lessons. These often involve reflection and subject knowledge development with experienced teachers and leaders within the school.

Community Engagement Project

Participants go out into their local communities to learn more about life in that area.

For more Teach First terms see my earlier glossary, which is linked here!

My Message to you

Sometimes you find confidence in the strangest places; on Friday, I found it in a Reception singing class.

One of the best things about this year’s Summer Institute is that it has allowed participants more time in their placement school than ever before. It has been an absolute privilege observing my class-to-be and their current teacher and I am in awe of their fantastic relationship.

On Friday afternoon, I was feeling very tired and a little bit overwhelmed by everything I need to do before September, luckily the class teacher chose just this moment for some class singing. The song she chose was this:

The children sung with such enthusiasm and warmth that it was impossible to feel deflated anymore. They face some really challenging circumstances and yet remain so positive and supportive of each other. Knowing that I’ll be teaching this class next year has given me all the motivation I need to get going on my to do list.