Monday, 16 October 2017

Student voice through google forms

I have found that student voice is a great way for me to learn what additional support a student requires, how they want to learn, as well as a way a student can give me feedback on the effectiveness of my teaching for them. I have used student voice in a number of ways through literacy and maths. In maths, I have used a google form so students can let me know when they need support on a particular area of maths. We can then conference 1 on 1, or in small focus groups to develop understanding and confidence in that area. I can keep track of this additional student support on a google sheet.

The maths form:



In writing, I have created a similar form. This form allows students to be metacognitive about what area of writing they need most support. As is suggested as a strategy in teaching of maths, from this, I can then create flexible focus groups to support multiple learners at once, in an area which is purposeful for them (Chapin, O'Connor, & Anderson, 2009).

The writing form:



More recently, at the end of term 3, I created a form for students to share their ideas about how they enjoy to learn.




Reference:
Chapin, S.H., O'Connor, C., & Anderson, N.C. (2009). Classroom discussions: Using math talk to help students learn. California, USA: Math Solutions

Monday, 18 September 2017

Speed Writing

I have been wondering how to get students managing their time better, to get the most out of writing lessons. I tend to break a writing lesson up into segments so students come and go from the mat throughout the session. However, there are some students who do not appear to write much in these times. By the end of the week, some students may have only written 3-4 sentences, when I know they are capable of writing a lot more than this. Other students are a lot more motivated to be writing for enjoyment and to inform an audience.

As a result of the needs of the first group of students, I trialled something new. After talking to students about the topic for writing, I gave them two minutes to write down as much as they could remember from what had been talked about on the topic. Interestingly, I had at least two sentences from every student who took part! In some cases, this was more then I would get in a whole writing session. Some students saw the activity as a competition to write as much as they could down. Others found it useful to be given a personal goal within a smaller time frame. Several students were quite amazed when they came to the realisation that they had written so much in such a short time frame. They were even more amazed when they compared this to the amount they had previously been writing during a whole lesson. Taking part in this speed reading activity helped them to realise just how capable they were at writing. As a result of this, I will give some students tighter time limits and goals in writing and clearer expectations of what I expect in each of these smaller time frames. I will see how this goes!

On another occasion, to motivate students in writing, several students created a screencast while they shared their ideas for a writing task with themselves or a friend. These students then went away with headphones to listen to what they said, and change their spoken words into sentences. This meant that when the students came back to work with me, they had ideas written down, which we could then work with to create a quality piece of writing. We were also able to work with these sentences to discuss important parts of speech/ grammar which were missed.


I plan to continue both of these ideas for writing into term 4.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The value of finishing things off

When it came to planning for writing this week, I came across a bit of a dilemma! Being towards the end of a very busy term, I felt I was lacking in inspiration for new and engaging ideas. In my long-term plan, I had thoughtfully left a gap for writing in week 8, thinking that this would become clear to future 'me' as the term advanced.

In the days leading up to the still non-existent lesson, I stopped and thought about where the children in my class were at in their writing. To help me with this, I began exploring the Blog log, a spreadsheet where the students provide links to their shared learning tasks. I was shocked to see the lack of completed tasks! I knew very well that many of the students had been working very hard this term, so why did it look like nothing had been done?! It could mean one of several things:

1. Students had completed the learning, but the link had just not been added to blog log. 
2. Students had partially completed many tasks, but none were completed enough to have been shared on their blogs. 
3. Tasks had not been completed.

I noticed a common theme with these three possibilities. They all required students to be given time to stop and reflect on their learning. At this reflection, I realised there was no point in creating a new task for students. I put myself in my students shoes, and imagined the following things going through their heads as the term continued, and new tasks kept getting added onto their 'to do' list:

* "What is the point in finishing anything? I'm just going to be given something new tomorrow."
* "I never get anything finished, anyway."
* "I really want to get this task finished, but I just don't have the time. And then we just get something new to work on! How am I supposed to get anything finished?!"

By doing this, I realised that I was the one who needed to change. I needed to be giving these students more time to complete their learning tasks, while spending additional time with those students who were needing more support. 

So the next day, I created a simple writing task, which was to focus on the editing and publishing (sharing) of learning. The lesson began by focusing students back onto the blog log. Students were then given an initial 15 minutes to add any links to the Blog Log which they had not yet done. After this, they were to go to any tasks they had partially completed to aim to get them completed and onto their blogs. Meanwhile, I was working with individual students who needed additional support. 

What a success!! Students who I had seen slowly getting less and less motivated to complete learning tasks, were suddenly much more positive and were showing more engagement in the tasks. Every time they posted to their blog, they seemed to get a new burst of energy to get another task completed.

On this day alone, before morning tea, I received around 35 notifications for new blog posts from my literacy class. This demonstrates that there was a lot of learning which had been sitting in drives, unshared. Judging from the fact that students were given about an hour to work on this, these students had completed a lot of work, however I just hadn't given them enough opportunities to finish them off to a published standard.

Reflecting on this scenario, I realised that the students in my class are definitely intrinsically motivated. As soon as they were given more opportunities to complete their learning, they did it, with no other incentive than the satisfaction of completing a task and being able to share it on their blog. As explained above, this intrinsic motivation appeared to add to a positive cycle, where every time some learning was completed, students became more motivated to complete something else.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Maths PD - Term 3

This week, we had some great maths PD with Jo Knox. She left us with some great ideas for teaching our learners from Year 5 through to Year 8. One idea she shared with us stuck with me and I trialled it with my class today. Below, I have explained the task:

Using arm motions, we represented a range of different fractions: 1 whole, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8. Here are some picture representations I have created to demonstrate these different arm motions:

The students were extremely quick at picking up these 4 arm motions, and it did not take long for them to gain confidence in understanding relationships between them. After the students were able to quickly form the arm motions, they were told to get into groups of 3 or 4. I then called out fractions which they had to create using these four arm motions. This was a great way to see which students could understand these fractions and the connections between each other. This was a great way for the students to develop their understanding that half of a quarter was 1 eighth. This really showed when the students created 1 and 3/8, with only three students. It was really positive to see that many of the groups managed to solve the problem by creating 1 whole, 1/4, and 1/8. They could also confidently explain that 1//4 was the same as 2/8 by using these representations of fractions.

Later in the day, while teaching a maths group, I asked students what 1/4 of 1000 was. The students accurately responded with '250.' I followed this by asking the same students what 1/8 of 1000 was. Students were confused, until I linked them back to this above task. As soon as they made the connection back to 1/8 being half of 1/4, the students could accurately give me the answer, '125.' After seeing how engaged students were in this task, and how much they took away from this experience, I am interested in finding more of these types of interactive, engaging maths tasks. 

NOTE: This is an activity I learned through a maths PD session. It is not an activity created/designed by me.

Start of term 3 Inquiry Update


Here is my updated inquiry into maths for this year. Click on the links to explore some of the NZ resources available to us, which will help me in this inquiry.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Team collaboration

Last year, we decided to run a Team 4 Inquiry Immersion Day for an Inquiry topic, Ch...ch...ch...changes. The day consisted of the six teachers in our team pairing up and taking a rotation of three different activities throughout the day. The five classes were mixed up to create a three-way rotation. It was a great day, which resulted in lots of discussions and excitement for the rest of the term for the students. It was evident that lots of learning happened.

Yesterday, we held another Team 4 Inquiry Immersion Day. Our Inquiry topic for this term is 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (Planet Earth and Beyond). Team 4 students are learning about resources required for life, how planet Earth has these necessary resources, and what we would need to search for if we were to move to a new planet. During our Immersion Day, students took part in three different rotations:

1. Space food
2. A normal daily routine on the ISS, as well as what it means for a planet to orbit a sun.
3. Exercises for Space.

They then completed a series of tasks to share their learning on their blogs. Here is the task for the rotation which Kelsey Parrant and myself led:


We wanted our students to be able to complete a quick but meaningful task (in the short time provided) which would remind them of their learning from the lesson with us. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Changing my ways

As teachers, we are constantly inquiring into our practice to discover the best way of teaching the learners who are sitting in front of us. Sometimes, this may require us to step outside of our comfort zones to try new techniques and ideas, and also this may require us to change our ways.

I am a person who likes routine. As a teacher, it is important to follow routines but also be prepared to be flexible. Things can change at any time, and we have to be prepared to adapt our routines appropriately.

As a teacher, I have learned that it is not possible to ever have everything 'completed.' There is always something further down the list to be working on. I have had to learn how to prioritise tasks and to some extent, alter my mindset for this to happen. The main priorities for me as a teacher are the children who turn up to school every day to learn. I need to be organised and prepared for the children who come through the classroom doors at 8:30am every morning. This includes being prepared, refreshed, and organised in myself.

Therefore, the word which stands out most to me from this term of teaching is 'priorities.' I need to be constantly thinking about in what order my priorities fall at a particular moment in time.