Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Agony Aunt Session

We have just had a very productive discussion in our inquiry group about things that we need help with.

Zac started us off thinking about how to encourage discussion in the classroom and how to step back as a teacher. I remember hearing that we as teachers talk about 90% of the time in the classroom. This is shocking when you think about it. We are working towards dialogic classrooms where students lead discussions, however we very rarely give them the time to do this. Rob and I shared some scaffolds that we have used in our classes to guide discussion and keep it focussed.

Rob brought up the age old question of maintaining order (quiet) in the classroom when addressing the whole class. He told us that this is particularly difficult after assembly on a Friday when routines are different. We talked about how, in junior classes, we bring the students down to the mat to give whole class instructions. Many of us put tape on the floor to condense the mat area, for the same reason that Rob might want to bring his kids from their desks down to the floor - it keeps them tight and more focussed.

I have been wondering how to extend students' vocabulary and use it in multiple contexts. I have been addressing vocabulary that comes up in reading books during guided reading time, however as we often read a new book every day, there is very little recycling of vocabulary. This means that we are getting quantity but not quality, or assurance that the new vocabulary is really sticking. Khismira and Zac suggested using shared books for the your main vocabulary extension. This can flow into writing and can give multiple contexts for the same vocabulary. This is a great idea and one that I will start investigating.

Jocelyn was wondering how to develop independence in writing. We talked about different strategies for developing this independence - Khismira talked a lot about how she combines ideas about guided writing from Gwenneth Phillips and the gifting of vocabulary from Jannie van Hees.

It was a very positive, productive discussion that lead to some tangible things for all of us to go away and try.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Love of reading

Somewhere in the excitement, frustration and enthusiasm of starting up my class of 1-1 iPads, I have forgotten something which is fundamental to children's success and enjoyment of reading.

I have forgotten to be an enthusiastic reader myself.

I used to read often and widely, however life has taken over that time for me and I very rarely sit down to read a book for enjoyment. While I may not be able to grab that time back at this stage of my life for my own personal enjoyment of reading, I need to continue to explicitly model this to my students.

My inquiry has edged away from what my iPads offer me, and it has focused back on what I do as a teacher. Here are my current foci:

Read to my students, at least once a day. Read quality picture books that extend vocabulary, engage the students, and take them on a journey.

Encourage my students to read silently or in a quiet whisper voice from Level 15 and above. Allow them to read at their own pace without always having to wait for others. Instigate discussions around the book where learning is extended beyond that one story.

Foster a love of books, reading, writing, and listening.

Already, my students read to big buddies once a week. They come in to the class in the morning and read to one another. We read in small, guided reading groups almost every day, and share big books or picture books with the class.

Reading should not be a chore - it should be passtime which gives us pleasure and furthers our thoughts, interests and ideas of the world.

Monday, 3 August 2015

My teaching has been changing and evolving during the year. It has been influenced by the professional development we have received as a staff. However the biggest influence has been the children in my class.

Helen Timperley reminds us that when we make pedagogical change, we must make sure that the changes are based on evidence. We must look at the factors that make a difference in acquisition of learning, and the shift in progress of the child. We can get caught up in new ways of teaching and assume that they are making a difference when in fact sometimes they are not.

I have come from an Year 4 extension class who were independent and motivated. They worked confidently with GAFE to learn, create and share. This year my class of Year 2 students have some high learning and behavioural needs. My expectations for them have consequently been very high, but this has at times caused tension between what I expect of them and what they are reasonably able to produce. 

In many ways, these students have taken like ducks to water with the introduction of iPads. However many activities that I have diligently created to extend their learning and help achieve accelerated progress have been too difficult for an independent task.

I have found a tension not only with my expectations of the children, but a tension between the desire and need to give the children activities that are highly cognitively engaging and the absolute necessity to have some quiet time to teach my groups. 

Consequently, I have been spending a lot more time teaching with the Explain Everything activities. This has changed the way I teach as I am spending more quality time on the follow up activities. This has become part of my micro teaching programme.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Quality not Quantity

There is a partially perceived, partially real pressure to push students through the curriculum as quickly as possible. The National Standards of course take much of the blame for this, however while I am a "National Standards Native", I'm sure this pressure existed well before the National Standards took force.

As a school, we are about to embark on some professional development around teaching reading with Dr. Rebecca Jesson. I sense that this will head towards the "quality not quantity" end of the scale too.

While there is a definite need for students in the junior years to read as much as possible, I have been thinking about how to make the learning tasks around these junior books more independent, creative and challenging - looking at the quality of the tasks not the quantity. Our PD this year to date has included SOLO Taxonomy as well as the SAMR Ladder - so the theme of high cognitive engagement is very apparent.

Here are some examples from recent Explain Everything follow up projects:

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Using Explain Everything in Maths

I have been thinking about different ways I can use Explain Everything in maths time. I have got many ideas from other teachers, and now I am trying to put some things together to create interesting, motivating, cognitively engaging maths follow up activities.

Heres is where I am at at the moment:

Monday, 18 May 2015

Where am I up to? Term 2 - SLOW DOWN!

Ok, so there has been a lot of thinking going on recently, but not a lot of blogging. I reflect constantly on what I am doing in the classroom, as many teachers do. My reflections sometimes result in a change of practice, sometimes in a conversation with a colleague, sometimes with some research or investigation.

I have been looking at how to create Explain Everything activities that provide high cognitive engagement, specifically in reading. I have come up with some concepts that have worked and I will continue to include in follow up activities, but I have also realised that I am too time poor to change the world in a day. While this sounds overly dramatic, in all seriousness I need to slow down with my changes as it is going to drive myself and my kids batty. My students are never going to be independent if I keep changing what they do. When I think about the greatest need in my class this year, it is to develop some level of independence.

Fortunately, a couple of amazing teachers (Michelle George and Karen Belt) paved the way for this roll out of iPads with an iPad pilot class in 2014. They created a fantastic bank of Explain Everything activities for a number of PM readers and these have become the basis of a lot of the follow up work we are giving our children. The beauty of this is that we can slowly develop our own style of Explain Everything follow up tasks in reading, while having a bank of very good activities to use at the same time. I sometimes use these activities as they are, I sometimes add to them before I give them to the students, and I sometimes create my own from scratch.

Over the holidays I pondered the cognitive engagement of my students in maths time. I hadn't felt like maths had been ticking along particularly well in term one - there seemed to be many interruptions, the students appeared to be even less independent in maths than in literacy, and I was finding it hard to give them things that would extend their knowledge as well as practice essential skills needed for Stages 0-4.

So.... where to next? I'm looking more at maths as well as reading, keeping on sharing ideas with colleagues, and using what is already made and making adaptations to them.

My most recent word of the moment was TEMPLATES. My new words are COLLABORATE and ADAPT.

Keep it real Laura and stop ordering a combo when you really only need the fries.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Templates templates templates...

If I want to work efficiently, produce high quality learning opportunities for my class of characters, and make conscious decisions about the cognitive level of the activities, then I need to be producing some templates that I can use in multiple ways.

Here is my first attempt. This is a template that I have customised for a particular book for one of my reading groups.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

SOLO vs SAMR and How Can I Combine the Best of Both?

I have been thinking about SOLO Taxomony and how to link this with the SAMR model. One extends students' thinking into the realms of high cognitive engagement while the other aims to use the affordances of technology to give students learning opportunities they would not otherwise have.

Easy, right?

I'm going to give it a go and see. With the use of Explain Everything, there are all sorts of possibilities with the technology, however some of these are simply replications of pen and paper activities. I was finding a wonderful world of online texts, resources, links through Google docs while teaching my year fours on chrome books last year, however right now I'm feeling a little limited with how I can creatively extend the thinking of my year twos. I need some serious time set aside to play with Explain Everything, and to think about how the actives can lead to higher order thinking.

For now, I'm going to play around with some activities based on the following verbs: to describe, to sequence, to compare and contrast.

Monday, 16 February 2015

How the heck is this possible?

Cognitive engagement? Higher order thinking? Metacognition?

Any ideas on how do achieve that with 5 and 6 year olds?

Well, I need to start somewhere, and right now that is at the bottom. I have enthusiasm, a few years of teaching experience, lots of travel experience, a passion for teaching kids to be inquisitive about the wider world and a class of Year 2 students who need to be accelerating their learning in order to be successful citizens.

My inquiry topic for this year is to look at how I can attain high cognitive engagement by using Explain Everything (and possibly other resources/apps) to accelerate the progress of my students.

No mean feat. But I'll give it a very good go. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Dome Art Project

It's the summer holidays and, like many teachers, I am mulling over creative ideas for my 2015 class. I have been thinking back to an art project I did a few years ago with Year 1 and 2 students in Wellington, NZ. We created a geodesic dome for our classroom, which the whole class could fit into, and was used as a special place to read, play, or rest.

I am wondering about creating another version of this with my new class. It was a challenge, but provided the students with a total integration of curriculum areas in a very hands on, and creative way.

Santa's Cookies

At the end of 2014, one of my lovely students and his mum gave me a jar of ingredients for "Santa's Cookies." It was such a creative and thoughtful gift. Here's how they turned out!