How not to organise your guided reading

Today, Facebook threw up this memory from a year ago:

Yesterday’s logical Y3 guided reading filing system: Red group books: purple folder. Purple group books: green folder. Yellow group books: green folder. Orange group books: red folder. Green group books: orange folder.

Far be it from me to tell you how to do your job but that system is shit.  What chance does anyone, supply teacher or otherwise, have with that?

If I recall correctly, this was also the teacher that left a (paraphrased) note saying ‘For the afternoon, talk to Miss Smith in class 3, she will tell you what the class need to do.’  Understandably, Miss Smith in class 3 had sod all idea what a completely different class were up to.

That is a school I refuse to return to.


Spinning plates and broken china

Reading a blog the other day, one of the comments linked to Terry Haydyn’s The working atmosphere in the classroom: a 10 point scale.

working-atmosphere-10-point-scaleIt makes an interesting read and worth a detailed look.  I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve reproduced it here.

Every teacher has experienced most of the levels on the scale at some time in their careers (disclosure: by the time I resigned, my low ebb was leading me to sit at level 5).  What I thought interesting was applying it to day-to-day supply.  One day, you can find yourself at mired in level 3, then the following day enjoying a lovely level 8.

The other week, I had almost this exact experience.  Wednesday saw me teaching a slightly challenging Y3 class.  It started well, the majority of kids knuckled down to their starter tasks but as the day progressed the behaviour slowly disintegrated.  After lunch, it came to a head with the arrival of a massive child (‘Dave’) who spends the mornings with the Reception class.  This fact alone should tell you that he can’t cope with Y3.  He had no adult support, didn’t know or care who I was (although was amazed that I knew his name) and the lack of routine caused him to flip out.  This made another child, with ASD-like symptoms, act up too, culminating in ‘Dave’ doing a runner from the classroom, pursued by a passing member of staff, and not returning.  Unsurprisingly, after this I’d lost the class.  A level 3 day.


When one of your spinning plates crashes on the floor, it’s pretty hard to keep the others spinning while sweeping up the broken china.

The following day, I returned to a semi-regular school, expecting to be in the lovely reception class, only to be told I was teaching Y6.  Argh!  A sure fire way of having a grating level 1 day!  Fortunately, the awesome school re-jigged for me and I was in the lovely reception class.  The children were a delight (aided by the fact there is only 20 of them), they engaged, listened, tried their hardest and enjoyed their learning.  No question; a level 9.

There are so many factors at play that affect the level on the 10 point scale that you will experience as a day-to-day supply.  It could be the planned lessons, handover notes (of lack thereof), one particularly strong-willed child, or ineffectual classroom support.  What it is not, however, is a judgement level on your ability as a teacher.

Wolverine vs Mummy Owl

The other day, I found a piece of writing by one of an old class.  The brief being to write what they think Mummy Owl was doing while the Sarah, Percy and Bill were asleep in Owl Babies.

My question is, how can you possibly accurately asses such a beautiful piece of writing now we’re in the era of life without levels?
Wolverine- forest

Stickers: A Love Affair

One of my semi-regular classes has begun giving out stickers for good behaviour and work.  While this does seem to be making an impact with this class (I managed to convince a very ‘active’ child to sweep up all the sand he had chucked on the floor with the promise of a sticker), I have mixed feelings about stickers in the classroom.  I first encountered them on my very first school work experience when the teacher gave them out for good behaviour, being helpful etc.  It worked well but come tidy up time, I asked a child to put some games away, to which her reply was “Will I get a sticker?”

Another time I was on supply placement and gave some stickers for good behaviour, which prompted one child, during carpet time, to persistently say “Mr Thing gimmie sticker.  Mr Thing gimmie sticker. Mr Thing gimmie sticker,” for about 15 minutes.  My name is not Mr Thing.  I could have given him one to shut him up but it would have sent out the message that they way to earn a reward is to use auditory water torture techniques until the teacher submits.  That wasn’t the angle I was hoping for.

Mr Thing Gimmie Typewriter final

That’s my fundamental problem with stickers, in that the sticker can often become the end in itself, rather than the reward for doing the right thing.

Of course, some schools do employ sticker-based systems (including my first workplace) but I think they need to be handled carefully.  I have bugbear with random dolling out of stickers when I child does one right thing.  The child gets a sticker for tidying up, then immediately goes back to smacking another child around the head.

I prefer to implement a system whereby the children get themselves into a ‘sticker-zone’ (meaning they are eligible for a sticker on their chart at the end of the day) that they must remain in until home time.  If their behaviour falters, they come out of the sticker zone and don’t get the sticker.


To be fair, something like these would motivate me. Source.

It is different on day-to-day supply, however.  You need to get the kids on side from the off and, sad as it is, the promise of a sticker is one of the most powerful carrots you can have.  When greeting the class and explaining my expectations for the day I’ll let them know about the possibility of a sticker if they impress me.  I’ll then draw a smiley face on the board that the children can write their name under if they’re in line for a sticker (which doubles up as a helpful reminder of the kid’s names).  If their name is still there at the end of the day, they get one of the hallowed stickers.

I tend not to draw a sad face for the kids that have made bad behaviour choices as, not only, is it publicly shaming the kids but, from a certain contingent, there will be competition to see who can get themselves under the sad face the quickest or for the most impressive reasons.

This system needs adapting, depending on placements and your feel for the class, in the morning.  Children with specific needs are a separate case and if it’s a tricky class that needs lots of motivation, give the stickers at lunch and start again in the afternoon (with potential for some kids to get two stickers during the day).  It seems harsh but when I get a really lovely class, I actually end up giving out less stickers as I’m so engaged with what they’re doing to think about behaviour motivation, which is lovely.  On those rare occasions, I’ll often reward the whole class at the end of the day.

The main thing with stickers (or any reward system), is that you should aim for the reward to feel like it has been earned in response for doing something well, not just as the end in itself.