About Me

This is the post excerpt.


My name is Abi and I am an aspiring teacher since the age of 5. On my first day of primary school I stood on a pile of books a proceeded to tell the class that I was their teacher, and they were to address me as ‘Miss Towler’ (apparently). My teacher was not at all impressed or supportive with my ambition, yet, here I am doing teacher training. I have never been academically inclined and this almost prevented me from accessing the Education MA (Hons) course. Luckily I have always loved working with children of all ages and my volunteering experience may have just saved my bacon (side note: I have been a vegetarian for 4 years). I specifically enjoy learning with children who learn through sensory experiences. I am born and bred in Aberdeen…boring. I have worked since I was 14 volunteering in charity shops for 2 years until I got my first paid job at Primark although payment was equivalent to peanuts back then. Now I work 4 part-time jobs alongside my degree and as much as I complain I like them all (some more than others).


This photo was taken on my 20th birthday in Amsterdam where I had the best meal ever- literally a pumpkin stuffed with vegetable goodness aka food within food. Equally as notable are my pineapple earrings (I have developed an obsession partly thanks to the pupils I work with), as a result I am the proud own of a colourful collection of fruity, sweetie and exotic earrings.


This blog came into being as a result of the sub course I am currently undertaking named ‘multiliteracies’- so far no one seems to have a clue how to define it. Hopefully this blog will help me understand (technology,) what multiliteracies means to me as a teacher and my pupils in their learning. And if it helps anyone reading then that’s an added bonus.


*Edit: This blog is currently being used to explore aspects of teaching I want to explore further; specifically relating to inclusion.





New ways with words

In an age of ever-growing diversity people have developed new ways of communication. Along with the creation of digital literacy The benefits for individuals come through the development of pupils adaptability, they understand “roles shift and change over time” (Hobbs and Coiro, 2016). These changes inspire opportunities to think differently, become curious inquirers. Whilst some forms of communication have come through advances in technology other have derived from the need to communicate. For a number of reasons individuals may be unable to communicate verbally and a variety of ways are increasingly recognised. Whilst hearing aids are available many people now choose to recognise, celebrate and through communication vessels such as BSL (British Sign Language), Makaton and Sign-a-long accept their difference. The constant challenge within recognition is understanding and ensuring everyone is “equal yet unique” (Honneth, 2001). To be equal often requires redistribution, however giving supports takes away the individuality of a person. Ultimately, the individual and their family have the decision. With society becoming more accepting and fluent in different ways of communicating diversity may continue to evoke people to look beyond current barriers and find solutions.


HOBBS, R. and COIRO, J., (2016). Everyone Learns From EveryoneJournal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 59 (6), pp 623- 629.

Pupil Support Assistants- Who are they supporting

It’s no secret that there are lots of teaching vacancies in Scotland, but it’s not just teachers that we are short of. Since 2010, schools in Scotland have lost 1,841 support staff (Unison, 2017). Moral in many schools is understandably low due to the pressure put on all staff.

Today was my first day back in a school for children with additional support needs this year. I love working in the school however often feel guilty coming in, being relief staff I know that I am temporarily covering for someone who cannot be there. This means that I do not have an established relationship with the children, and may not be there long enough to build a trusting relationship. In additional support needs schools the ratio’s need to provide a potent support for individuals so ideally pupil to staff ratios will be 1:1 or 2:1. Individuals will be very familiar with the staff they interact with everyday. Having an unfamiliar face interacting with them can cause anxiety and confusion. This can make communication difficult as an individual can give me cues that I am not familiar with. Academic reading and experience has emphasised that the “range of nonverbal communication varies widely” (Curcio, 1978). When individuals are put in situations they find extremely stressful or confusing, they become stuck in fight or flight mode and can unknowingly cause harm to themselves or others.

Flash forward two weeks and I have visited three classes in the same school from the youngest end of primary school up to secondary school. There is a common theme in both that having a 1:1 ratio has clear benefits for every individual and their learning. With schools across the world now adopting a more inclusive practice this brings new challenges for teacher who may not have the support they require, but all members of staff who interact with the pupils as they need training.


CURCIO, F., (1978). Sensorimotor functioning and communication in mute autistic children.  Journal of autism and childhood schizophrenia, 8 (3), pp. 281-292. 


I wrote this post last year, trying, I think, to emphasise the importance to having adults in classrooms other than the teacher to support children’s learning. Traditionally, teachers focus is on the class as a whole and the PSA (pupil support assistant) focuses on the pupils who require extra support. Just before Christmas I attended an in-service that discussed many aspects relating to the attainment gap. One which made me really think was the use of PSA’s in class. As I previously mentioned they are often used as support for the pupils that need additional aids. The speaker flipped this concept on its head and asked: if these pupils who cannot fully participate in the lesson then why is the teacher not focusing on them and the PSA not guiding the rest of the class?

What are your thoughts? Should the arguably more academically qualified individual be focusing on the learning experiences of the pupil who needs support or is the current system working well? Specifically consider the attainment gap and what effect this change may have in the attainment of every pupil. Does this strategy encompass GIRFEC (getting it right for every child) by focusing on the pupils who need the support or neglect the majority of pupils in the class?

Lights, you tube, action!

It’s no secret that moving image is more exciting than listening to a teacher’s voice alone. By using short films teachers are “drawing on their [pupils] multiple intelligences and learning styles to increase the success of every student” (Berk, 2009).

This link will get you started browsing, these particular films are great for story starters and really help pupils to visualise the scene/ engage in the plot. The Disney short I used in a slow writing lesson was Piper.

what can these bring to your classroom?

  • Deeper level of engagement from pupils
  • Memorable learning experiences (which can be continued/ revisited at home)
  • Cross-curricular links
  • Tools to support discussions
  • Relatable materials
  • Stimulus to introduce an activity
  • Visual or audio cues (finishing an activitytidying up, lining up (below), going home, stopping an activity etc.) Image result for line up cartoon
  • Opportunities for literacy, art, music, drama, health and wellbeing, modern languages, history, maths, science and more
  • Videos of experts in a specific field (if you do not want to show these videos in class you can educate yourself using them)
  • Encourage the development of skills including multiple intelligences , technology awareness,  collaborative learning

Continue reading “Lights, you tube, action!”

Would you write without purpose?

The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy 2016 found that many primary pupils were achieving the level required.

” P4 and P7 where 62 per cent and 65 per cent of scripts, respectively, demonstrated that pupils were performing well, very well or beyond the level” (Scottish Government, 2017)

This almost contradicts the experience I have had of literacy, specifcally writing, in schools. Whilst pupils could produce excellent pieces of work, consistency was not always there. In my multiliteracies course a discussion took place during a tutorial about pupils motivation to write, it seems rational to expect that when people are motivated then the quality of their work will be greater. Although this is not always the case, when too excited pupils can lose sight of the original task.

I have made a very long-winded acronym of what I think is important when teaching literacy in schools.

Prompts; some may disagree with this and it is probably dependant on your own class and how they work, I believe that it is beneficial to have writing prompts or checks that pupils can visit to self mark their work. These prompts could be in the form of a wall display, a set of cards that sit in an area of the class or a card for every pupil to have on their desk when writing. Having individual cards may be beneficial as it allows for differentiation. These prompts can include grammar considerations such as capital letters (and when they should be used), full stops (and when they should be used), commas (and when they can be used) and similes (and what they are).

(I am considering changing the first P to Pupils; could teaching become more inclusive and pupils have involvement within the planning of lessons? This would allow for a deeper level of learning and understanding. Could pupils be involved in the decision of most improved writer or giving constructive feedback for a partners work? Having more inclusive pupil led lessons may lead to increased pupils motivation, understanding and possibly Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, where pupils are learning from their peers.)

Understanding; what they are doing and why they are doing it. Additionally, critical literacy is an increasingly important skill. The ability to evaluate their own work, the work of peers, a newspaper report, a tv report or a blog. Being able to understand why an article was written, who it was written by (author bias), the main points, if the articles main points are reliable (statistics/ quotes) are all vital skills. Questioning is an important part of understanding and being able to answer these questions will aid pupils daily as a life-long transferable skill. Ultimately the purpose of writing will always be to communicate, sometimes the message is very clear and sometimes there is a hidden agenda that critical skills are necessary to uncover.

Realistic; if the pupils do not relate to the task their motivation is lost. If the writing is topic related and they are studying the Jacobites, before writing about the battle use art to create outfits and weapons for the battle, re-enact the battle in a drama lesson. These rich experiences will act as resources to support their writing. Provide the pupils with as much resources as possible in order for them to understand and engage in the task.

Perfection is overrated; appreciate what the pupils can do and focus on their development from that point. Expecting perfection can lower your opinion of a student’s ability and they can often sense this. The focus should always be on learning and development and not ticking boxes. Pupil’s will likely have a much more positive attitude to writing if they can see that you believe in them and see that they are trying to improve.

Other forms of literacy; look at the world around you, pupils do not write at home anywhere near as much as they write in the classroom. (Remember returning to school after the summer holidays and having an aching hand for the first week because you had become so unaccustomed to writing.) Be creative and find ways that students can achieve outcomes and benchmarks from the CFE that they understand and will remember. In early years education shaving foam can be a blessing for letter formation, as can play dough. For older pupils you can incorporate the language that they are learning- challenge them to spell a Spanish word using the materials you have put in front of them. The objects could be as simple as newspaper, play dough, sticks, leaves, stones; basically anything you can find around school, home or in the garden.

Support; writing is not easy, there’s lots to remember and this can be overwhelming to pupils. It’s normal to have different expectations from different pupils, no class of pupils will all find the same aspect of writing challenging. However it is important not to compare pupils, comparing leads to grouping and the risk of this is that pupils conform to the expectations of their group and therefore limit what they can produce.

Evaluate; pupils should have the opportunity to view others work, to create constructive feedback and to revisit their own work. I previously mentioned questioning, it shows that an individual is engaged in the task and through the questions are making meaning. Constructive feedback is a great way for pupils to show their understanding of the task through what they comment on and the vocabulary they use.

Some ideas we discussed during this tutorial included having a blog that pupils use for their writing, a blog which can only be accessed by the pupils, teachers and perhaps parents. When pupils work is solely read by the teacher individuals can sometimes lose sight of the importance of producing quality work. Knowing that peers will be looking at their work can encourage pupils to check their grammar, spelling and overall quality of their work. Whilst this may work for some classes it may cause stress to pupils who do not want the pressure of others reading their work. What I found worked well in my placement school was paired writing. Every pupil would have a pair- chosen by the teacher, and everyone would do their work individually as normal. Before the end of the lesson the pupils would sit in their pairs and swap books, every pupil had their own marking card and used a colour code to mark their peers work. Red, for example, could be used to indicate missing or unnecessary punctuation. To encourage the pupils to help each other, the star writer would be the PAIR that had most improved their work. Through this pupils became more competent and vigilant in not only their own work but when marking peers work. Additionally, they have learned to be more constructive in their feedback to others.


The only way you can have your pupils writing like this


is if they understand the purpose of the work and benefits to them. My first literacy lesson was extremely nerve-racking, pupils were asking lots of questions about verbs, adverbs, nouns and sentence structure and it helped me to understand how confused they can feel about writing. If the pupils do not understand the purpose this only throws more confusion into the mix. Using a short movie arguably saved the lesson (I will write a post about using short movies for literacy soon), the pupils were engaged and had a visual tool to help their understanding. Being a trainee teacher a lot of my learning is strongly based on trial and error and what works for one class will not always work across the board, that is a good thing as it encourages continuous learning and development. Inevitably the above acronym will change and develop as I encounter new schools, classes, staff, pupils and experiences. This is the nature of education, there is however, one thing that should never change: a pupil focused learning environment and teaching style.


SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT., (2017). Chapter 4: Writing attainment in 2016. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government. Available: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/05/7872/341218 [Date Accessed: 24th April 2018]

Sharing and Caring

Many of us will have encountered an experience where not ‘doing good enough’ led to not ‘feeling good enough’. It is a horrible feeling and many of us are lucky, in that we do not have to endure this feeling on a regular basis. Self-efficacy is hugely important to how we act and feel in daily life. If we do not feel good about ourselves then we will consequently limit the opportunities we have to try new experiences, enjoy ourselves and meet new people. Many studies have aimed to uncover direct links between mental health and literacy; the way in which we talk about mental health and the vocabulary we use. As with all stigmas the ability to openly discuss, knowledge of factors which may affect or contribute and understanding of where/ how to seek help will all benefit an individual. Communication is vital to support individuals, families and the community.

Traditionally the saying has been ‘knowledge is power’, in the present day I would argue that ‘understanding is power’ upholds a greater value in society. Knowing about your mental health is beneficial. However understanding your mental health, understanding what helps or hinders you and understanding who or where you can go to for help is valuable beyond words. In the past is has been viewed as important for healthcare professionals to be able to identify and support individuals with mental health challenges. “The public were simply not seen as an important target” (Jorm, Korten, Jacomb, Christensen, Rodgers and Pollitt, 1997) which is perhaps where the stigma surrounding mental health has derived from. Due to the nature of injuries it could be effectively hidden from society, in comparison to a broken arm or leg. Some countries still face the stigma of shame and discrimination that many fought to rid regarding mental health (see Patel link below).

The ongoing financial pressure on the national health care system means that patients are often placed on waiting lists for a prolonged period of time. Whilst self-help strategies are beneficial they can also be compared putting a plaster over a sprained ankle- the appearance of help but no real benefit to the individual. Mental health first aid originally brought to Scotland from Australia in 2003 aimed to improve the support received by individuals affected by mental health challenges. According to the Scottish Mental Health First Aid website there are 300 instructors in Scotland and over 40,000 people have attended training. The Mental Health Foundation posted statistics in 2016

“Between 2012-15 one in six
(15%) adults in Scotland reported
symptoms of a mental health

It is likely that this number is higher than official statistics state as people may still feel that they should not or cannot seek support from services available. Focusing on 2018, stress was highlighted as a contributing factor to many mental health challenges during Mental Health Awareness week (14th – 20th May). Whilst many schools used last week to promote awareness and understanding of mental health and how to help ourselves and others, there is another week for mental health specifically for children. It is being recognised that children can experiences mental health challenges from a very young age, the 5th – 11th of February 2018 was Children’s Mental Health week encouraging the celebration of uniqueness.

What I believe is super important to understanding about mental health is its diverseness. In life, no two people will have identical experiences, we all have unique perspectives and circumstances. Mental health challenges that people experience can occur due to abuse- physical and psychological, social pressure, financial pressure and so much more that I cannot even begin to explain as my own personal experiences are different to others. What I hope everyone can agree on, however, is that an individual should never be punished for having different experiences and requiring support as a result. See me aims to educate people to see beyond the challenges an individual faces and still see them as their son, daughter, brother, sister, mum, dad, gran, granddad, cousin, aunty, uncle, friend, colleague etc. It can be easier to see mental illness as something which does not affect us and distance ourselves from involvement, however with 1 in 6 Scots suffering from a mental illness, it brings mental health closer to home than we might expect. Communication can be the key to understanding others, listening before judging will enable a deeper understanding. Sometimes people do not share their experiences with us with the intention that we will share our opinion, sometimes the best support we can give is to simply sit and listen, without interruption. communication is not just talking its eye contact, its gestures, its body language which indicates engagement.

As cheesy as it sounds something as simple as smiling at your neighbour as you walk past them on your way out the house, acknowledging them, asking how they are or what they have been up to. It might surprise you how much better you both feel after a short exchange of words.

You do not have to be an expert to support people in their mental health it’s as simple as talking, listening and caring. Patel demonstrates in a TED talk that better mental health care for all must involve all. This vital message encourages everyone regardless of the challenges they face to be an advocate in caring for others and supporting their rights as human beings.


JORM, A.F., KORTEN, A.E., JACOMB, P.A., CHRISTENSEN, H., RODGERS, B. and POLLITT, P., (1997). ‘Mental health literacy. a survey of the public’s ability to recognise mental disorders and their beliefs about the effectiveness of treatment. Med J Aust166 (4), pp.182-186.

THE MENTAL HEALTH FOUNDATION., (2016). Mental Health in Scotland: Fundamental Facts 2016. Scotland: The Mental Health Foundation. [Available: file:///home/chronos/u-9796b3627f0c40d5595bbc6f452dda34d76603e5/Downloads/FF16%20Scotland.pdf] [Date accessed: 23rd April 2018]

Barbara Bush and her legacy of literacy

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in 1989. Barbara understood the importance of literacy in daily life. More so she valued the importance that parents and guardians have in a child’s life, therefore the importance in their literacy experiences not only for personal benefits but additionally to support their child to build a range of meaningful experiences with support from those around them.

Not everyone is given the best start in life and Barbara strived to ensure that literacy opportunities for children are in abundance regardless of personal circumstances. Many of her campaigns focus on access to physical reading materials. The value in literacy is not just the encoding and decoding of words but the understanding of what a text is communicating. Widening horizons and brightening futures by gaining a genuine love for words, stories and the value of information is the legacy that I believe Barbara has left generations of American children and families.

I cannot pretend that I knew Barbara personally, nor have I been involved in her foundation. The importance of literacy and the importance of parental/ guardian involvement however I do relate to. A foundation that has positively affected countless children and families is something very special- nothing short of a legacy which will undoubtedly continue to touch the lives of many for years to come.

Training to teach in Scotland means I am more familiar with Scottish literacy policies. Through the multiliteracies course I have read into some policies in Australia, America and England. Has anyone come across a literacy policy that they really endorse or would like to use? Whether the policy is local to you or is applied further afield.

The Power of Technology

Circle time is a great tool to facilitate classroom discussion. The pupils wanted to acknowledge World Down Syndrome Day, I decided that we would use a circle time format to support the discussion. Although I have experience working with pupils who have Down Syndrome I did not feel that it was enough to stimulate a real class discussion. Whilst looking online I came across a video called “Lea goes to school”. It put a twist on traditional views and showed an outgoing child which many of the children in the class could relate to. It was a video appropriate for a primary class whilst still addressing social justice issues.

Short videos can be a helpful tool in engaging pupils in a class discussion. Whilst videos were often used as a ‘treat’ the day before school holidays there are now “theoretical and empirical support for their use as an effective teaching tool”. Multimedia learning is being encouraged to facilitate engaging and honest classroom discussions which can be pupil led with minimal teacher support. Multimedia/ multimodal materials are usually two modes presented together for example a video would most likely be sound paired with moving image but it could also be moving image and writing displayed on-screen or music with pictures. Goldman’s theory of emotional intelligence also supports the use of video use in classrooms, encouraging children to recognize and address the emotions they witness and identify similarities and differences to their own emotions and experiences. Videos capitalise on the diversity of classrooms in that every student learns differently. By adopting the use of multimodal materials in the classroom we support in inclusion of all pupils. The nature of diversity will mean that it may time some time to find a method which works for most pupils whilst differentiating materials for others. However if we are to uphold the right of every child to an education we must ensure that the education we are providing is accessible to all.


Link to video- https://www.includeusfromthestart.com/



BERR, R. A., (2009). Multimedia teaching with video clips: TV, movies, YouTube, and mtvU in the college classroom. International Journal of Technology in Teaching & Learning(1)